The Current Mercedes-Benz Museum
NEWS ON RADIO
The new Mercedes-Benz Museum
will open on 20th May, 2006
with Next Car,
19th March, 2006
The current Mercedes-Benz Museum bids farewell, two months before the new Mercedes-Benz Museum opens its doors to the public on 20th May, 2006. As part of Stuttgart’s “Long Night of the Museums” the old museum opened its doors one last time last night (7:00 PM until the early hours).
The party is planned as a thank you not only to all visitors, but also to all museum employees, who over the years have looked after visitors and exhibits and have made the experience one to remember for so many people. Since 1961 the museum has welcomed over 13 million visitors – a figure that puts the Mercedes-Benz Museum ahead of any other corporate museum in the world.
One of the museum’s most popular exhibits has been the Benz Patent Motor Car, as designed by Karl Benz in 1886. The exhibit is in full working order and has proved a regular and highly reliable starter. Since 1981 the Patent Motor Car has been started 17,000 times for the benefit of visitors and has traveled a distance of almost 380 kilometres around the museum with various VIP visitors on board.
The Mercedes-Benz Museum has often been used as a venue for special events. In 2002, for example, fourteen girls sharing the Spanish name Mercédès attended the museum for a photo shoot to mark the “100 Years of Mercedes” exhibition. For the “Stars & Cars” motorsport event the museum regularly provided the backdrop for the action on the plant premises involving racing cars and drivers past and present. And let us not forget either the annual summer Employee Day, an invitation on behalf of the corporation extended to all DaimlerChrysler employees.
Short history of the Mercedes-Benz Museums
The history of the Mercedes-Benz Museum dates back to the early years of the company. The first items collected by Daimler and Benz were above all intended as an internal technical archive. At the same time, though, the vehicles themselves came to symbolise the invention of the automobile and the originality and history of the oldest car manufacturer in the world. This was recognised in a small factory exhibit in 1923.
The first museum established by Daimler-Benz AG was opened in 1936 on the plant premises at Untertürkheim to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of the automobile. The museum housed a total of 35 vehicles, together with nineteen engines (stationary engines as well as car, aero and marine engines), three rail vehicles, a copy of the Daimler riding car and a Daimler motor boat from 1888. But the display did not exist for long in this form, since at the outbreak of the Second World War the museum was cleared of exhibits. In order to protect the display objects from bombing raids on the plant they were sent for safe-keeping to various company-owned premises all over Germany.
At the end of the Second World War the first task was to rebuild and restore the plants. What was left of the historic collection in the Western occupied zones was carefully tracked down and brought back to Stuttgart. The company began planning a new exhibition concept, but in the intervening period the collection was simply kept in more appropriate storage. The museum was finally reopened in 1951, and in that year received a total of 7,000 visitors to its new exhibition room. “The museum is enjoying ever greater visitor numbers and the cars themselves are also taken to external events,” notes correspondence between the museum and the Board of Daimler-Benz AG.
A magnet for visitors
As the collection expanded, the museum was forced to move several times to different sites on the plant premises in order to keep pace with growing visitor numbers. Finally, in the mid 1950s, the decision was taken to build a new and spacious Daimler-Benz Museum with appropriate public access and in purpose-built premises at the Untertürk-heim plant. The official opening took place in 1961 marking the 75th anniversary of the invention of the automobile.
The architects Rolf Gutbier and Hans Kammerer wanted to provide maximum transparency between the plant and the museum, so the museum architecture featured large expanses of glass to the front and two glazed inner courtyards. The design also carried this transparency into the interior with a system of galleries and various high-ceilinged exhibition rooms. Instead of solid pillars, the building was constructed around a framework of cross-shaped section steel girders, which were positioned behind the facade to provide the illusion of lightness. The museum offered a total floor area of approximately 3,250 square metres, of which 1,200 square metres were exhibition space. Visitor numbers reflected the renewed positive response to the museum from the public. In the first year alone, the museum received 95,127 visitors, of which 26,732 came from countries other than Germany. In 1963 the museum counted its 750,000th visitor since reopening in 1951. This success story continued with each passing year – in August 1982 the museum welcomed the three millionth visitor since the dedication of the new building in 1961.
The museum was closed in 1985 – and after a thorough redesign and extension it reopened in time for the anniversary “100 Years of the Automobile” exhibition. The 25-year-old building was given a new front aspect made of glass, and the inner courtyards were covered so as to provide extra space in the converted interior of the museum. The display area was increased to 5,760 square metres and now offered a refreshingly new access to the collection. The visitor could choose between a chronological tour of the exhibits or a visit tailored to individual interests and focusing on a selection of the 26 thematic areas.
Preparations for the move
Two years before the move to the new Mercedes-Benz Museum outside the gates of the DaimlerChrysler plant at Untertürkheim, a new record was established: In 2004 the museum attracted over 500,000 visitors, more than in any year since its opening in 1961. This figure represented an increase of over 10 percent compared with 2003 alone. The 500,000th visitor in 2004 was 35-year-old Sun Yan from China. China now accounts for approximately eleven percent of visitors, the greatest block of visitors from a non-German speaking country.
In 2005 the imminent opening of the new museum became an ever greater reality: February saw the removal of the first exhibits from the old museum to the new Mercedes-Benz Museum. But their places did not remain empty – it was an opportunity for the old museum to put on a fascinating series of special exhibitions during its last few months. One exhibition for example showed the legendary C 111 series experimental cars, with which Mercedes-Benz tested the rotary engines among other innovative ideas and set new standards in sports car design for the 1970s.
A few facts and figures about the closing Mercedes-Benz Museum
- Total number of visitors since 1961 (as of March 2006): approximately 13 million
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