From a factory to a museum
The Gernheim glassworks were founded in 1812 by two merchants from Bremen called Schrader and Lampe. They recruited expert workers from Thuringia and Bohemia and erected small terraced houses for their families. In the 1820s the works began to expand. As a result the owners built an imposing glass cone – based on an English model – to make window panes. The works exported its wares all over the world via the River Weser. Even the coal for the melting furnaces came by river. But in the end its transport was so expensive that the works were no longer viable. In 1877 the fire at Gernheim was finally quenched. For 100 years the works lay asleep like an industrial Sleeping Beauty until the regional authority of Westphalia-Lippe tookover the site and its buildings and integrated it into its industrial museum. Following comprehensive restoration the monument was reopened as a museum in 1998.
Sand, soda and lime – the raw materials from which glass is made – have remained the same throughout history. Otherwise there have been a lot of changes in glass manufacturing over the last 700 years since the first forest glassworks were set up along the River Weser. We shall show you the individual stages of glassmaking from mixing the batch right up to the finished product, completely polished and in break-proof packaging. You will become acquainted with techniques, tools and machines from several different centuries.
But above all you will find out something about the people who worked at the furnaces, in the batch chamber, the melting pot workshop and the basket-weaving shop: and the families who lived in the factory village. Take a look inside the dark room of a worker’s dwelling, where the glassblowers after the nightshift slept. And visit the old factory school. The children of Gernheim who had to give their fathers a hand in the works were taught here on an hourly basis after work. In future we are planning to present an exhibition on the lifestyle of entrepreneurs in the old manufacturer’s manor.
In our treasury under the roof you will find out how glass changed the world and made its way into almost all areas of life and work. Drinking glasses, preserving jars, trophies, bottles, vases, laboratory glass and many other exhibits will provide you with an impression of the variety of colours and shapes of glass over the past two centuries and show why glass is a much sought-after product today.