The seven theme rooms

The transparent man

Images of the human being in the modern sciences

Since its creation in 1911, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum has striven to prevent disease by enlightening the public. The more the human body has yielded its secrets to science, the more vulnerable it has appeared to be. Yet medical progress has also fostered optimism that disease can be vanquished if people contribute by taking responsibility and by acquiring knowledge about their own bodies. The museum has always portrayed the body in a gamut of contexts, ranging from the individual threatened by illnesses to a frequently idealized, if not prescribed, notion of health. Since 1930, the "Transparent Man" has served as the symbol of this museum. This figure depicts the internal workings of the human body as a machine: understandable, immaculate, and, if well cared for, durable. The meaning of terms such as disease and health is in constant flux, however, and the museum will continue the effort to help define them


Living and Dying

From the first cell to a person's death

How does a cell form, and how does it grow into a whole organism? What does it mean to be healthy or ill? Why do living things age? When is a person dead? How do different cultures deal with the start and end of human existence?

Since February 2017, this themed room has awaited visitors with updated content and a new design.

The first section, Life Begins, is about the biological processes which set in after the ovum and the sperm cell fuse. At the same time, it shows how the images of the embryo popularised in the media have greatly influenced the discussion on when human life begins.

The section Building Blocks of Life focuses on the ethical questions arising as a result of advances in cell research. What kinds of artificial insemination and prenatal diagnosis are there today? What does it mean that we may in future be able to grow functioning organs out of individual cells?

Living with Illness – despite all the medical advances of recent decades, illness is still a part of life. What illnesses can modern medicine recognise and heal? Can sick people still lead a good life? And where does our own responsibility come in?

Improved living conditions have markedly improved life expectancy in our society. The Living Longer section shows that our ideas of age and our assessment of whether we feel “old” or not have changed radically. For most people today, after all, getting older offers them the chance to shape their own lives individually for longer than has ever been possible in the past.

The dream of never having to die is as old as humanity itself – but we live in the knowledge that death comes at the end of every life. The last section, The End of Life, is about saying goodbye; about dying in dignity being part of life, and about remembering the dead. It points out that thinking about dying and death must always also be understood as remembering a life lived.

Eating and Drinking

Diet as a bodily function and cultural act

When did table manners develop, and what are they like in other cultures? What aromas suit each other? What causes the poor state of global food distribution, and what role does consumers’ behaviour play? Is eating a cult? What path does food take through the body?

In autumn 2014, the “Eating and Drinking” section of the exhibition replaced the themed room on nutrition which had been set up ten years earlier. It features an updated concept, modern scenography and extensive new content. As well as popular classics from the old exhibition, such as the neon “Goldbroiler” sign from Dresden’s Schillerplatz or “Heidi” the transparent cow, visitors can now explore plenty of new attractions. There is an interactive supermarket with all kinds of background information, an aroma memory game to train your sense of smell and taste, a table set with tableware and cutlery from ancient times to the present, and much more.

This section’s reconception places new emphasis on the different aspects related to the subject of nutrition. As well as the biological necessity of supplying the organism with energy in the form of food, keeping it healthy, the exhibition now also more clearly focuses on the pleasure and civilisational act involved in preparing and consuming meals.

It thus also reacts to the fact that there have been some changes in the field of nutrition over the last ten years. Ambitious restaurants and shockingly expensive kitchen design companies are now equally capable of attracting customers, while German kitchens and dining rooms bear witness to entire libraries of cookbooks, professional equipment and an unbelievable love of experimentation. In other words, eating and drinking have become part of our individual lifestyle in almost every generation and social class.



No part of our lives arouses as many desires, hopes and longings as sexuality. The reasons for the need for sex are as individual as they are varied. It's about affection and love, security and recognition, the urge to have children - and of course it's about lust and desire.

At the same time, hardly anything has been so de-tabooed in the last two decades as sexuality. Whether it's Internet porn, online dating or sex toys of all kinds - it looks as if the diversity of desire is easier to live out today than ever before. But is that actually true? 

The exhibition section provides information about - almost - everything we associate with sexuality today. It conveys elementary knowledge about the body and makes clear how much our sexual ideas and preferences are culturally shaped. At the same time, the exhibition is a committed plea for a self-determined approach to different forms of sexuality. People should be free to choose monogamous, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, polygamous or other sexual relationships - or even a life without sex at all.

In five chapters, the exhibition follows the path from "getting to know each other" to "the first time" to "living together." The interactive and playful module "Let's Talk About Sex" is aimed primarily at the sexual curiosity of young people, while in "Lust and Desire" a cultural history of the passions is spread out - from historical means of increasing desire to digital forms of sexual desire. The final chapter, "Living Together," takes a look at the suppressed topic of sexualized violence and also shows what new family constellations and partnerships are opened up by the possibilities of modern reproductive medicine.  


The cosmos of the human brain


The human brain is probably the most complicated structure in the universe. Every single one of its 86 billion cells forms links with 10,000 others. This gigantic network processes sensory impressions, experiences, and feelings. Brain research is one of the most successful scientific ventures of present times. Many fundamental mechanisms are known, and research progress is leading to new medical therapies and learning methods. No one knows yet whether all the functions and structures of the human brain can ever be fully explained.


Sensory Organs and Perception

The sensory organs provide for communication with the external world. The kind of information that is registered depends, first of all, on the structure and function of the organs involved. Perceptions arise only from those sense stimuli that the brain translates into its language. It creates its own perceptual world by bringing out the most probable and meaningful configuration of available information. Perception is thus already a form of experience. It has to be learned.


The Structure and Function of the Brain

All functions of the human brain have evolved in the course of the human beings interaction with a changing environment. They are based on chemical and electrophysical processes in different, clearly demarcated areas of the brain. Study of the brain structures and functions has always included the hope that the human spirit our experiencing, processing, linking, transforming, and remembering will one day be able to apprehend itself.


Feelings and the Logical Mind

Emotions are a faculty for evaluating thought and behavior. They are like concentrated experiences, without which sensible action would be impossible. With each recollection, an emotional context of relations and associations is created that helps anchor new experiences and knowledge in the memory. Essentially, recollections and the attendant emotional responses constitute our conscious mind and individual personality.




The art of coordination

Many movements take place involuntarily. Some of them, such as the heartbeat and intestinal peristalsis, are concealed within the body. Others, such as blinking and the respiratory motion of the chest, are externally visible. The voluntary motion of muscles and the skeleton primarily serves the purpose of locomotion and everyday tasks. Movement is conducive to health and can be analyzed and optimized. Movement influences our perception of space. In the form of gestures and facial expressions, it is part of personality and of communication with other people.


Body Language

Movements convey many layers of information, often without a person being aware of it. When we blush or drum our fingers on a table, the body is speaking its own, only partly controllable language. It can betray us by contradicting what we say in words. But it can also make our words more persuasive. Body language is often used selectively. Pantomimists and actors often have such mastery of it that they can tell entire stories with it. The character of individuals as well as of cultures is reflected in body language.


How Motion Functions

The first thing that the motility of the body requires is a locomotor system with bones, joints, tendons, and muscles. Respiration and a circulatory system supply it with oxygen and nutrients and guarantee the availability of the necessary energy. The brain and the nervous system control the sequences of movements. Coordinated motion in space is ensured primarily by the information received from the organ of equilibrium, the proprioceptors, and the eyes. We do not normally become aware of these somatic actions until pain or constraints on our freedom of movement occur.


How Motion Has Its Effect

Motion affects the entire person, both the body and the mind. It promotes health, and it is fun. Athletics facilitates the development of social competence and fosters a sense of community. Motion can help avoid or treat disease and symptoms of attrition. If the body becomes excessively or too unevenly stressed, then motion becomes too much of a good thing. Synchronizing sequences of movement enhances aesthetic pleasure, as in ballet, or builds discipline, as in the military. Forms of motion also always mirror social conditions.


Optimization and Acceleration

As human beings evolved, their locomotor system adapted to changed habitats. Movements have always been practiced and taught, and in the modern age many of them have been synchronized and accelerated. During the twentieth century in particular, researchers developed analyses of the human locomotor system in order to optimize it and integrate it into mechanical processes. Their work today, however, also focuses on forms of motion that have gotten out of control, the behavior of large panic-stricken crowds, for example. Increasing social mobility by technological means has impacts on the human organism.

beauty, skin and hair

Open boundaries between the body and the environment

Many cultures and eras have devoted a great deal of medical and cosmetic attention to skin and hair. As boundaries between what is "internal" and what is "external", these two parts of the body have always been one of the most important focal points of beauty care and personal grooming. Beautiful skin and beautiful hair reflect youth, health, and prosperity.


The Schwarzkopf Collection – 2,000 Objects from Three Millennia

The Schwarzkopf Collection is one of the largest special collections on the history of beauty care and personal grooming. It has been on permanent loan to the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum since 1995. The selection of objects on display in this room pertain to the history of the crafts and professions of the barber-surgeons, barbers, wigmakers, and hairdressers. The exhibits also artistically depict contemporary hair care and personal grooming and include fashion accessories and cosmetics that have been used to live up to cultural and social ideals of beauty.