From factory to museum

The former rubber factory of the New-York Hamburger Gummi-Waaren Compagnie (NYH) in Barmbek (in 1923)

NYHH Barmbek 1923 Ausschnitt, Museum der Arbeit

The site of the former rubber factory New-York Hamburger Gummi-Waaren Compagnie of 1871, where rubber was once used to make ebonite combs, is now the home of the Museum der Arbeit. This location is of great significance for the city: the NYC site in Barmbek is one of the oldest factory complexes still in existence in the city; it was built in 1871 and was constantly extended over the decades. Like no other place in Hamburg, this listed complex tells the history of the industrialisation of the city with its old factory, new factory, factory courtyard, boilerhouse, tin foundry and gatehouse.

In the Second World War, on the last day of what was called Operation Gomorrah, large parts of the complex were destroyed. In 1949, the factory in Barmbek was sold to the city and in the 1950s the company relocated its headquarters to Harburg. Some buildings were demolished. Before the complex was turned into a museum it was an industrial ruin with parts of the old factory dating back to 1871; the gatehouse, the tin foundry, the boilerhouse and the new factory were built in 1908. Small workshops and traders had moved into the old buildings, and in 1986 a culture centre moved into the former tin foundry, with a bar and a wide programme of events.

As early as 1982, there were plans to open a museum of work here, and in 1992 the buildings were finally refurbished for the new museum. The construction work started with the conversion of the boilerhouse to house the museum’s workshops, which was completed in 1994. The first exhibition building, the New Factory, was completed in 1996 and the museum’s very first exhibition was officially opened on 5 January 1997. In October 1999, the refurbished and converted ground floor of the Old Factory (“Alte Fabrik”) was opened; a further section of this building was completed in 2006. As well as new administration offices, this part of the complex also has nearly 2,000 square metres of space for exhibitions and events. The library, which is open to the public, on the 3rd floor of the Old Factory also provides room for reading and working, as well as a lovely view of the museum courtyard.


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