25 years of Bonn′s history museum: Postwar Germany portrayed through objects | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 12.06.2019
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25 years of Bonn's history museum: Postwar Germany portrayed through objects

The Haus der Geschichte in Bonn, one of Germany's most popular museums, opened 25 years ago. Beyond pieces of the Berlin Wall, here's why a dentist's chair is among the exhibits of its permanent exhibition.

On October 1982, Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced that his government would establish a museum in the then-capital Bonn dedicated to Germany's contemporary history. 

The museum was "to tell the story of our state and of a divided nation," said Kohl, who saw "the preservation of culture and history as a national task for the future."

More than a decade later, Kohl finally celebrated the opening the Haus der Geschichte (House of History) in Bonn on June 14, 1994. It between time, the Berlin Wall had unexpectedly fallen, the events adding a new chapter of history to be covered in the museum — which Der Spiegel magazine described as the "crowning achievement" of the Bonn Republic (as the period during which Bonn served as the German capital was called).

The Haus der Geschichte quickly turned into a successful institution. With around 650,000 visitors every year, it is one of the most popular museums in Germany.

The permanent exhibition alone features some 7,000 exhibits. Temporary exhibitions — such as the Brexit-related show "Very British – A German View," which will open in July, as well as former shows including "German Angst" or  "German Myths since 1945" —constantly renew public interest in a museum that turned 25 this year.

Experiencing history

Each object must tell a story: That's the guiding principle for the museum's selection of exhibits, explains Hans Walter Hütter, president of the Haus der Geschichte foundation.

For instance, there's a dental chair in the permanent exhibition. "It's not just any random chair. It was flown in during the Berlin Airliftand it portrays the lack of supplies in the enclosed city," says Hütter.

Another example: A CARE package, one of the US parcels of food and supplies sent to Europeans after World War II. This item was hard to find, even though millions of them were sent from America to Germany after the war, says Hütter. Since people were in need, they obviously used the supplies they contained.

After putting out a call to obtain a parcel's typical items, the museum received a complete CARE package with its content from Swabia. "The family had put it aside after the war, fearing even worse times could come," says Hütter.

Since its foundation, the Haus der Geschichte has collected about a million objects. And with their stories, the museum creates a vivid portrait of Germany's postwar history.

Watch video 03:34

Bonn's Haus der Geschichte

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