Sunday, January 09, 2011

Berlin Review: Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Technical Museum)

When you pay huge amounts of money to go somewhere new and exotic, it's easy to resolve that you won't do the same kinds of things you can do back home. And yet, sometimes, those familiar activities are perfect. I remember when relatives visited us in the Netherlands and we took them to the Mauritshuis with its staggering collection of Vermeers and Rembrandts and to the Amsterdam Flower Market, things they would never see in California. But it was the impulsive, evening trip to the water slides that all the kids remembered best and where the cousins ended up in gales of laughter.

I was a little dubious at first about spending some of our precious Berlin time at the Deutsches Technikmuseum--it seemed more like a standard US science museum than something especially German--but it was freezing cold, and at least the Technikmuseum was inside.

Although the museum is obviously more used to locals visiting than tourists, we found it easy to navigate. Most displays didn't have English interpretive labels, but we could figure out enough to enjoy them (a massive loom! a train!) and within a few minutes of arriving, Eleanor had announced, "This is one of my favorite museums ever."

The museum has four parts: trains, boats, airplanes, and other stuff. In the railroad section, Eleanor and Isaac got to operate a model train (and earned candy and a button for their efforts!) along with German kids.

We clambered around trains from every decade of the 150 years, including one exhibit quietly memorializing the victims of the Holocaust and the role of the railroads in their death (though the Holocaust is definitely not the main focus of this museum).

The airplane level was a little spooky since several of the planes on display are proudly painted with swastikas and one from World War II had a cartoon-like drawing of a dog shaking an American plane in its mouth. Old men combed through the displays of German military insignia with the same look of nostalgia I see among American veterans in military museums.

The ship level had both models of ships and actual boats and ships. We loved tying knots and raising and lowering sails.

The parts of the museum where we spent the most time, though, were in the "Other Stuff" category. We all loved the hands-on math exhibit.

The very favorite spot for all of us was the camera obscura in the photography section of the museum. A camera obscura is an optical device
that "projects an image of its surroundings onto a screen" (thank you, Wikipedia). You can then place a paper on the screen and trace what you see. Some art historians believe that major Renaissance artists used camera obscuras as a tool in their painting.

Whether Vermeer used one or not, it's really fun to draw portraits with one. Here's our family's camera obscura portrait gallery:
Ruth's portrait of Ed and David's portrait of Emma Lucy
Edward's portrait of me and Eleanor's portrait of Edward
Emma Lucy's portrait of Ruth and Isaac's of Edward
Now we wish we could make a camera obscura for ourselves.

If the photos today seem particularly great, it's because Edward took almost all of them.

1 comment:

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.