Deutsches Museum in Munich opens agricultural exhibition – Munich

Some things are familiar, some new, above all, the revised agricultural exhibition in the Deutsches Museum welcomes visitors with a fresh, friendly design. It’s the first “sneak preview,” says General Director Wolfgang Heckl, before 19 new exhibitions from the first construction phase open in the summer. Everything is becoming more airy, more colorful – and in the future technology should not be the only focus, rather social debates should no longer be left out.

It is not surprising that a Munich museum is primarily about the beer. The brew kettle from the old exhibition is right in the first room. Together with the lovingly restored diorama of the Spatenbrauerei from 1812, all the steps are clearly explained how the Bavarian staple food is made from water, hops, malt and yeast. Nothing has changed in terms of the basic principle, even if today modern machines do the work.

A floor-to-ceiling wall of shelves with colorful objects makes visitors curious about topics related to agriculture and nutrition, from baby milk to artificial flavors and astronaut food to locusts as a future source of protein.

A third of food is lost on the way from field to fork

Old and new agricultural machines are presented, tractors, combine harvesters and an automatic cattle washing system. “After all, inventions such as the plow and the steam engine have decisively advanced mankind,” says Heckl. But visitors should also be encouraged to think, for example by asking questions like: Where does our food come from? How is abundance and scarcity distributed in the world? How much food is wasted?

Tractors can also be seen: General Manager Wolfgang Heckl is already sitting on a particularly small specimen that Maria Thon, Managing Director of the BayWa Foundation, presented to him.

(Photo: Florian Peljak)

The answer to that last question is staggering: a third of all food worldwide is lost en route from field to fork. In poor countries, one learns, there is a lack of infrastructure and means of transport; in rich countries, people simply throw away food because they can afford it. When asked what could be done about it, the text boards remain vague, as at most stations: “Conscious consumption and better planning would help to protect scarce resources, the environment and the climate.” Point.

The exhibition deliberately excludes political questions – although the question of how to achieve climate-friendly, environmentally friendly and globally fair agriculture is one of the most pressing of this century. Factory farming, the use of pesticides, artificial fertilizers, seed banks, everything is touched upon, but ticked off with a few words.

A pig has only one square meter of space in the barn

When it comes to animal husbandry, life-size models of cows, pigs and sheep come across as they look around in a friendly manner. One reads that a pig in German stables only has one square meter of space on average – and one sees the photo of a happy sow in her natural pool in front of a green meadow. The mass husbandry of pigs is efficient, it is said, and necessary “because global demand is increasing”. Every visitor should probably answer the question why Germany has to export millions of pigs every year, preferably to China.

Deutsches Museum: The alpine hut from the Tegernsee region has been restored.

The alpine hut from the Tegernsee region has been restored.

(Photo: Florian Peljak)

In order to be able to offer meat that is both cheap and of high quality and comes from species-appropriate husbandry, the next text panel reads that “legal measures for the welfare of the animals and well-trained specialists in agriculture” are necessary. A monitor then advertises training in agriculture. For example, for the profession of large animal doctor: That is a doctor who treats sick animals. On the subject of fertilizers and pesticides, it is said that they should be “used with caution”. No numbers, no facts, such as the use of glyphosate. Only the statement that “the groundwater in many regions contains more than the permitted 50 milligrams of nitrate per liter”.

The BayWa Foundation supported the exhibition with one million euros. The Foundation maintains a variety of very meritorious educational projects to promote awareness of healthy eating. At the same time, BayWa AG, as one of the largest international corporations, earns billions with seeds, fertilizers, animal feed, herbicides and pesticides. However, as Wolfgang Heckl emphasizes, the support from the BayWa Foundation had no influence whatsoever on the content of the exhibition.

The general refurbishment of the museum is being carried out in two phases. When 19 new exhibitions open in the summer, the clearing out of the second part will begin. Anyone who still wants to see high-voltage current experiments or ships should plan a visit soon. Incidentally, the construction site does not detract from the popularity of the museum: in the spring, the number of visitors almost reached the pre-corona level again.

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