Press information Panorama of an epoch in-between awakening and war Exhibition “1914 – In the Middle of Europe” of the lvr-industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum on the coking plant Zollverein Essen. April 29, 2014

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Press Information

April 29, 2014

Press information

Panorama of an epoch in-between awakening and war

Exhibition “1914 – In the Middle of Europe” of the LVR-Industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum on the coking plant Zollverein
Essen. April 29, 2014. Due to the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, the LVR-Industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum show the exhibition “1914 – In the middle of Europe” from April 30th to October 26th at the mixing plant of the coking plant Zollverein in Essen. The First World War shaped the history of Europe, Germany and especially the Rhine-Ruhr-area until today.

The exhibition is the highlight of the unique combined project called “1914 – In the Middle of Europe. Rhineland and the First World War” of the Rhineland Regional Council (LVR). With its 2,500 square meters of exhibition area, it is the biggest exhibition of the council in the year of remembrance of the First World War in Germany.

Pivotal year 1914

The First World War was the first industrialized war in history. The exhibition “1914 – In the Middle of Europe” searches for the preconditions and consequences of this “primal catastrophe of the 20th century” in the Rhineland and Ruhr-area. To do so, it connects the time of the late 19th century up to the end of the Weimar republic. The visitors can experience an age of awakening, in which the war is the central issue. Furthermore, the exhibition shows a panorama of this time as well as the sweeping social transformations which mark the dawn of the Modern era.

One era on three floors

The three floors of the mixing plant of the coking plant Zollverein provide the structure of the exhibition: German Empire, war and Weimar republic. Visitors enter the exhibition from the southern weighing tower by taking a 150 meter ride with the funicular. Arriving in the mixing plant, the visitors are welcomed with visions of a better future which characterize the unbroken optimism of the people at the beginning of the 20th century. The first part of the exhibition tour starts with the economic, social and cultural accomplishments in the industrial area on the Rhine and Ruhr during the eve of the First World War. The 19th century brought unimagined progress and technology because the industrialization went on in a rapid tempo. The fast change of work and living conditions left the future even more open than ever – especially in the industrial metropolises, where the change was sensed the most. This so called “distribution level” features a turning frame of the Wuppertal suspension railway, which went into operation in 1901, an electric car called “Runabout” from 1903, as well as advertising posters and product packaging, which revealed new possibilities of consumption. In addition, typical dresses of the different classes, like the outfit of a female worker or tightly laced silk dresses, portray the class society of the German Empire.

The next level, which is called “the bunker level”, is dedicated to the war itself. The Rhine-Ruhr-area had an important role in the war as the “armoury of the German Empire”, which also meant enormous sacrifices and austerity. A field howitzer, the model of a warship, an enormous painting of a poison gas experiment, photographs of soldiers, field postcards and plaster- and wax-moulages from serious war injuries show the cruel side of the industrialized war. Life at the home front, where not only all men fit for military service, but also women and adolescent were mobilized for the “all-out war”, is shown, as well. The up to 3.5 meter tall nail figures are an example of the propaganda campaigns, which should justify the enormous losses, the famine and hardships.
The third floor of the exhibition so called “funnel level” focuses on the consequences of the war. Here its epochal effect is getting obvious. This refers especially to the Rhine-Ruhr-area, where the war did not end in 1918. The experience of violence, hunger and poverty left a mark on everyday’s life for a long time. With the general strike of the miners in 1919 and the “Ruhr-struggle” in 1920 the region evolved into a centre of the revolutionary movement. The “rote Ruhrarmee” was bloodily suppressed by troops of the government. Consequences of the war were the separatist efforts in the Rhineland and the Belgian-French occupation of the Ruhr-area in 1923. The emergence of technology, science, society, architecture, cinema, sports and politics is also a theme of the beginning modernity of the 1920s. But the society has changed: Charleston dresses embroidered with pearls and sequins in the Art Deco style, a car drivers coat for women, children’ s clothes as well as frock coat and “Stresemann” for the men make the visitors experience the transformed lifestyle of the Weimar republic.

The end of the exhibition refers to the next major catastrophe of the century: the Second World War, which can be seen as an extension of the first one, making it a period of war that began in 1914 and lasted about 30 years.

In the middle of Europe – at Rhine and Ruhr

The exhibition is part and highlight of a combined project called “1914 – In the Middle of Europe. Rhineland and the First World War” and organized by the Rhineland Regional Council (LVR) with a number of partners. The project deals with different aspects of the war, as well as with the modernization in art and society. It lasts until the middle of 2015. Going beyond the normal cooperation between museums, both the LVR-Industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum brought in their specific strengths in this unprecedented joint production – especially the regional strengths: the LVR-Industriemuseum with its roots in the Rhineland, the Ruhr Museum with its focus on the Ruhr-area. “This exhibition documents in itself the innovative central thought of the LVR’s combined project”, say Milena Karabaic, the head of the LVR’s department of culture and environment and project manager Dr. Thomas Schleper. “Namely generating synergy effects through cooperations that point their way ahead: for the teams, for the industrial culture and last but not least, for the audience.”

The exhibition goes on a quest for the origins of our modern world: a deeply ambivalent modernity in between avant-garde and aggression, the desire for innovation and destructive frenzy. At the same time it portrays the genesis of an important scene of this awakening: the area around the Rhine and Ruhr. “The Rhine-Ruhr area was more directly involved in the First World War than we might think”, Prof. Heinrich Theodor Grütter, director of the Ruhr Museum, explains. “Here huge parts of the weapons were produced and the violence came back into the region with hunger, revolution and occupation.” Dr. Walter Hauser, director of the LVR-Industriemuseum emphasises: “The region was remodelled by the processes of modernization and fast urbanization – with social dislocation, the creation of an extensive infrastructure – like none other. The exhibition gives answers to the question of identity and origin of the Rhine-Ruhr metropolis from the spirit of modernism.”
Exhibition site mixing plant

The exhibition site is the mixing plant of the former Zollverein coking plant and probably the most spectacular building on the Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built from 1957 to 1961. The three levels of the former coal store with its vast halls and raw concrete walls symbolize the technical possibilities and the brutality brought about by modernity through their materiality and monumentalism. In 1999, the concluding ceremony of the International Building Exhibition Emscherpark took place in the mixing plant. Since then, the site has been refurbished over the last few years and will be re-opened as a permanent exhibition site with the current exhibition “1914- In the Middle of Europe”.

Cooperation and accompanying program

“1914 – In the Middle of Europe” is a joint exhibition by the LVR-Industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum. It presents more than 2,500 exhibits, mainly from the collections of the LVR-Industriemuseum and the Ruhr Museum, but also provided by more than 200 national and international lenders.

The exhibition is accompanied by a broad educational and cultural program with lectures, film presentations, field trips, guided tours, theatre projects and workshops for children and school classes in cooperation with a number of partners. The accompanied program is also part of the cultural program “1914 – Aggression and Avantgarde” of the city of Essen’s office of culture.

Alongside to the exhibition an extensive 400 pages strong catalog is published by the Klartext-Verlag, Essen. The catalog can be bought in the museum’s shop on the ground floor of the mixing plant at the exit of the exhibition for € 29.95.


UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein

Area C [coking plant], mixing plant [C70]

Arendahls Wiese

45141 Essen

Mon – Sun 10 am to 6 pm


30th of April – 26th of October 2014


10 €, reduced 7 €

Children and adolescent up to 14 years have free admission, as well as pupil and student groups with previously booked guided tours.

Group reducing is available at the box office.

Your contacts for editorial questions:

LVR-Industriemuseum Ruhr Museum

Anette Gantenberg Philipp Bänfer

Telephone: 0208 8579 124 Telephone: 0201 24681 433
»1914 – In the Middle of Europe. Rhineland and the First World War« is a collaborative project between the LVR Department of Culture and the Evironment and several different partners. The project’s patron is Ute Schäfer, Minister of Family, Children, Youth, Culture and Sports in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Herausgeber: LVR-Fachbereich Kommunikation, Kennedy-Ufer 2, 50679 Köln

Telefon: 0221 809-2781, Telefax: 0221 809-2889, Mail:,

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