Go back to article: Museums theme – Science vs technology in a museum’s display: changes in the Vienna Museum of Technology with a focus on permanent and temporary exhibitions and new forms of science education

Europe as an exemplar?

In the 1920s, Europe observed the technological and, especially, economic advancements of the US with keen interest. Thus, Technisches Museum Wien organised lectures on Taylorism and Fordism. At the same time, Europe served as a role model for the United States in creating museums of technology. This is probably due to the fact that industrialisation commenced in the US much later than Europe. The American Association of Museums was founded in New York in 1906; its first publication, The Industrial Museums was not published until 1925. Apparently lacking their own tradition, European-style museums met with general admiration in the States during the 1920s: ‘[...] the United States had nothing that corresponded with the Deutsches Museum or the Technisches Museum’ pointed out the newly appointed Director of the Chicago Museum of Science in 1929 (Kaempffert, 1929). Between 1922 and 1927 individuals and entire delegations travelled to Europe to look at the newly-founded museums of technology in preparation of setting up the industrial museum in Chicago. Even though, eventually, that museum was largely modelled on the Deutsches Museum, Vienna’s Technisches Museum was also regarded as exemplary. Incidentally, the close contacts established with the United Stated during these visits generated annual donations of $5,000 for the Vienna museum over a three-year period (Lackner et al, 2009).

On the occasion of these trips to Europe, the Association for the Establishment and Maintenance for the People in the City of New York of Museums of the Peaceful Arts commissioned two films, Museums of the New Age. A study in world progress (1927) and The Building and Operation of Industrial Museums (1928). These films showcased London’s Science Museum, the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers in Paris, the Deutsches Museum in Munich and the Technisches Museum in Vienna. The first of these not only presented a cross section of the museums’ displays but also looked at the educational resources they made available. It ended with the caption: ‘Civilization is menaced. The problem must be met. Thus far only Europe has found the way.’ The film is a unique document of the early history of museums of technology and the efforts they undertook to communicate their subject matter.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170810/003