City Museum Harburg presents photo exhibition on its 120th birthday

Just in time for its 120th birthday, the City Museum Harburg presents a selection of historical views of Harburg dating from 1880 to 1930, in addition to the exhibition “Margiana – A Kingdom of the Bronze Age in Turkmenistan”, which has been ongoing since 1st November. In the course of the comprehensive digitisation of all image stocks of the museum this photographic treasure was unearthed: Hundreds of photo glass plates from the last century show Harburg through the ages. The museum has now developed the historical negatives using traditional techniques and transformed them into high-quality individual prints by hand. 30 of the most beautiful motifs will be shown in the new exhibition.

There was a time when photos were put with great effort on fragile glass plates. The small treasures measure only 9×12 to 18×24 centimeters and need be touched with gloves today. The City Museum Harburg has been in the possession of extensive photo collections since its foundation 120 years ago and has thousands of these valuable glass plate negatives, which lay previously dormant in the museum’s archive. They have now been studied in painstaking work as part of the digitization of stocks.

The photographic glass plates represent an essential part of Harburg’s photographic tradition, with the help of which the change in the townscape from the end of the 19th century to the 1930s can be understood. These include originals by major Harburg photographers such as Carl Timm and Kurt Foige. The glass plate negatives are currently continuously digitally recorded in the museum to permanently secure the sensitive photographs and integrate them into a database. They represent an important resource for urban and regional research and architectural history and are in danger of being lost: the highly sensitive film layer of the plates undergoes chemical changes, and the thin glass can break. The negatives are of the highest photographic quality, because the large format of the glass carrier allows a density and sharpness that put today’s 35 mm cameras to shame despite the technical progress.

It quickly became clear to the museum’s experts that this exciting photo treasure should be shown as part of an exhibition. But the fragile contemporary documents first had to be transformed into high-quality photographic prints. For this project, the museum was able to win over the photo artist Martin Eckert, who created technically sophisticated photos with the help of an analogue process, which was already applied at the time of the glass plates, and which then took the historical photographs to the present. In several elaborate steps, he worked on the images and produced a copy from each. In his photo lab, he exposed the images on high-quality baryta paper and then developed them chemically and purely by hand. This approach is a tribute to the photographers of the time: the mastery of early photographers required not only the recognition of the appropriate motif and the composition of the image, but always the production of perfect prints – only then could a motif become a masterful photography.

The result can still be viewed until 17th February 2019 in the exhibition “Freshly Developed – Harburg in Early Photographs”. In 30 photographs, the presentation takes the visitor on a journey through the colourful past of Harburg. The exhibition shows typical streets, squares and buildings and gives a view of Harburg, as it presented itself from 1880 to the 1930s. Many buildings still shape the streetscape today and are easy to recognize. Others, however, have changed a lot or have completely disappeared. They have been victims of bombing or urban development since the end of World War II. The oldest photographs still show Harburg as a historic half-timbered town. However, the early industrial city is already recognizable: people on their way to work, steaming chimneys and the prosperous inland port were popular motifs of the photographers in the 1920s. The hitherto mostly unpublished images invite long-time residents and new Harburgians to use them as a photo album for remembrance and rediscovery.

Anyone who has fallen in love with one of the motives can even purchase it: each print is unique and can be purchased and then taken home after the end of the exhibition.


Special Exhibition

Museumsplatz 2
21073 Hamburg

Die Ausstellung ist beendet


entrance fee: 6 Euro, free for kids



10:00 - 17:00 Uhr


10:00 - 17:00 Uhr


10:00 - 17:00 Uhr


10:00 - 17:00 Uhr


10:00 - 17:00 Uhr


10:00 - 17:00 Uhr