Museum Collections

The history of the museum collections goes back to the 19th century, prior to the founding of the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum. In 1868 the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (Westphalian Miners’ Union Fund, WBK) established the permanent exhibition “Mining Tools”, which showed the illustrative material used by Westphalian mining schools for the training of miners. Since then, the collections have been steadily expanded, and, as requirements have changed, new collection emphases have been added.

Through its national and international activities, the DBM has been able to extend its mining history collections beyond the German-speaking countries. The collections thus represent not only focal aspects of mining in this region, but also a supra-regional spectrum of mining technologies and cultures, showing how they have developed from the beginning of mining activities to the present day.

A further focus of the collections is raw mineral materials, mineral specimens, fossils and rocks, largely taken from the above-mentioned regions, with an emphasis on the coal deposits along the Ruhr. These collections also go back well into the 19th century.

The museum collections are broadly divided into eight main collection emphases. Since individual objects are related in meaning, there is some overlap between the sections.


Mining collection: the extraction of raw mineral materials

To access raw mineral materials by subsurface mining, open-cast mining or drilling, and to extract these and remove them from the place of extraction, appropriate technical resources have always been needed. This applies to all eras in which mining has been carried out, and to all kinds of raw mineral materials (e.g. coal, ore, potash, salt etc.). The collections relating to the extraction of raw mineral materials contain objects representing individual areas of this more narrowly defined mining practice. The excavation of mine openings is represented, for example, first with simple, stone-age picks, then drilling and blasting techniques, and finally with modern heading machines. The tools used for actual extraction go from classic hammers and picks to the multi-tonne shearer loaders which are used today. In addition, numerous techniques (e.g. ventilation, drainage) are required in order to make mines accessible, and maintain this access, or to secure them as production sites. These technologies are also represented by objects, as are the transportation of materials, the removal of raw materials and mine waste, and various means of manriding (transportation of workers).

Collection relating to wider mining practice

Although the extraction of raw materials is the primary goal of mining, the special requirements of mining have led to the invention and development of numerous innovative, very specific technologies related to mining practice in a broader sense. These include mine surveying, rescue services, respiratory equipment, pit lamps, communication, and telecontrol technology etc. Various special collections represent these technologies and their development.

Collection on the technology used to process and refine raw materials

Effective value creation can generally only be achieved by processing or refining raw materials directly after extraction. This processing usually takes place at the mines or very close by, and requires special technical facilities or industrial plants. The museum holds, as originals or models, equipment for crushing, grading, enriching, washing and sorting. One focus of the collection is coal, or more specifically the thermal refining process of coking, including the chemical refining of the by-products which have been extracted since the 19th century. Further subjects of this collection are ore processing, brine treatment, and objects used for briquetting brown coal.

Collection on the history of everyday life

In contrast to the mining collections, the objects in the history of everyday life collection represent the socio-cultural aspects of mining, the way people lived. This includes personal items such as job-specific clothing and accompanying objects (e.g. drink bottles, lunch boxes, snuffboxes), evidence of local folk art and amateur art, advertising materials, items associated with traditions and identification (including devotional objects) etc. Also noteworthy are personal, mainly damaged objects which were able to be salvaged after pit accidents.

Professional/middle-class collection

Mining-related art and culture has been a collection focus of the DBM since the 1940s. The oldest artistic representations of mining which are preserved here date back to antiquity. Since the modern era, not only paintings but numerous objects with representations of mining have been created from different, usually valuable materials (glass, porcelain, carvings, decorative objects made of metal, Handsteine, i.e. rock or mineral specimens carved into ornaments, etc.). These were mostly created in periods when mining had a professional/middle-class character, and can be seen as evidence of a generally idealized perception of mining, differentiating between professions and classes. During the period of ‘high industrialization’, a critical attitude towards mining began to appear in artistic works, especially in the late 19th century. Many objects, e.g. those made of tin, and coins with mining motifs also symbolize the particular value ascribed to the raw materials or the objects created with them.

Religious-transcendental collection

Particularly in the coal districts of Central Europe, the Christian faith has always played a major role in miners’ lives, and in their ability to cope with the work and its specific dangers. Corresponding symbols and objects have found a firm place in the cultivation of mining tradition and culture. Objects with mining symbols and representations not only became widespread in churches and chapels, but were also used in church processions or at funerals. In particular, St. Barbara, whom miners still revere as their patron saint, makes numerous appearances within this part of the collection. This section is supplemented by the Nemitz-Stiftung St. Barbara, with around 400 representations of St. Barbara from the 15th century to the present day.

Mineralogical mining collection

The roots of the mineralogical collection go back more than 150 years, and are closely linked with the early development of the former Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK). Initially, mineral and ore specimens and rocks from the well-known deposits (e.g. Ruhr, Ore Mountains, Harz, Siegerland etc.) were collected, but for some time now the focus has been on the raw materials relevant for the DBM’s research projects. The mineralogical collections have now been expanded to include international deposits. To train mining engineers and miners, collections were established in the mining schools, following mineralogical classification systems. These collections are now brought together in the DBM.

Geological/palaeontological collections

The geological/palaeontological collections were already being established as a basis for exploration of the Lower Rhine-Westphalian coal district, and for the training of mining engineers, shortly after the founding of the Westfälische Berggewerkschaftskasse (WBK). In most cases collecting was actively continued into the 1970s. The Upper Carboniferous surrounding rock and the overburden from the Upper Cretaceous period to the Quaternary period have thus been well documented. The collection has been expanded to include other regions and evidence of other geological eras, partly because of the establishment of a geological museum, accessible to the public since 1919. Items from the collection have always been used for scientific research, and have received corresponding publicity.