Blick auf das Museumsgebäude aus dem abendlichen Innenhof

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Science ans Society, art and culture

Deutsches Hygiene-Museum (DHMD) is an open forum for discussion, open to everyone who is interested in the cultural, social and scientific revolutions taking place in our society at the beginning of the 21st century.

Its temporary exhibitions address current, socially relevant topics with regard to research and society, art and culture – such as “Future Food”, “In Prison”, “Of Plants and People”, “Racism” or “Artificial Intelligence”. At the centre of the permanent exhibition “Human Adventure” are the body and health topics that visitors can explore by exhibits, media units and many interactive displays. The permanent exhibition also displays countless objects from the museum’s extensive collection, such as the “Transparent Woman”. The regular attractions are rounded off by the experience-based children’s museum “Our Five Senses”.

The communication of research in the natural sciences as well as the humanities and the task of cultural education have traditionally been the corner stones of the DHMD. Besides holding exhibitions, we offer a broad base of guided tours and mediational activities according to the requirements of different kinds of visitors. This is complemented by a wide-ranging programme of events like lectures, conferences, readings and concerts.

Why the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum has its name – and not another!

History of the institution

The Deutsches Hygiene-Museum was established in 1912, in the climate of general reform that permeated many sectors of society after the turn of the century. At the time, “hygiene” was understood in a broad sense as an expression of progress and modernity – in health care and urban development, at work and at leisure, or in sports and personal cleanliness. Accordingly, “hygiene” was the catchword for a society that was organised based on scientific findings; one that would enable both individuals and whole sections of the populace to lead a healthy life. Thanks to the exhibitions it held on these topics, the museum played a key role in the democratisation of education and health, especially during the Weimar Republic. To this day, the name “Deutsches Hygiene-Museum” is still linked to that particular nuance of meaning behind the term “hygiene”.

History under Nazi rule

Under Nazism, through its propaganda efforts, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum actively participated in implementing the principles of eugenics, known as “racial hygiene”. Ever since, the term “hygiene” has been inextricably linked with memories of the Nazis’ criminal policies. The name “German Hygiene Museum” is also a gesture of acknowledgement of that chapter in the institution’s history. It brings with it an obligation to maintain a critical examination of that topic, for example in the permanent exhibition “The Human Adventure” or special exhibitions such as "Deadly Medicine. Creating the Master Race” (2006) or “Racism. The Invention of Human Races” (2018).

Communications and marketing

For those who do not know the museum, the name “Deutsches Hygiene-Museum” does not just sound strange; it is misleading, points in the wrong direction. After all, the historical meaning of the term “hygiene” and the expectations and associations that it conjures up today (Washing your hands? Brushing your teeth?) do not correspond at all with the institution’s current agenda as a “Museum of the Human Experience”. However, that communicative misunderstanding is also a means of attracting increased attention and making people wonder what kind of museum it might really be. From the point of view of marketing, there could hardly be a better basis on which to generate discussion about the museum with the odd name. Yet another reason to hold on to the traditional “Deutsches Hygiene-Museum” branding.