A selection of the house’s collection you can find on the webpage ‘Museen Nord’.
The archive comprises the following seven departments:
I. Collection of Hamburg Antiquities
II. Museum of Hamburg History
IV. Associations, foundations, organisations, commissions, groups
V. Newspapers, magazines
VI. Folk Song Archive
VII. Autograph Collection
The museum collects relevant literature for the city of Hamburg in consultation with the Hamburg estate and archive institutions.
Since the Great Fire of 1842, elements from public and private buildings were saved from the rubble after events of this kind. More items were added in the course of the different demolition activities in the city centre. The collection therefore includes remnants of the main medieval churches, the oldest existing elements of timbered houses dating from 1524 and items from modern residential buildings.
The museum library collects Hamburg literature in the broadest sense of the term, including: publications on the city’s history, architecture, shipping, the harbour, transport, cultural history, the city quarters and about Hamburg personalities and families. The library also holds one of the largest collections of numismatic literature in northern Germany and an extensive collection of family records and autograph books. The library currently holds some 88,000 volumes. The holdings are largely registered in the library’s online catalogue.
The museum’s most comprehensive collection is made up of drawings, printed graphics, postcards, water colours and commercial graphics, including e.g. posters, advertising vouchers, entrance tickets and leaflets. It goes far beyond a classic graphics collection. In 1908 it was named the “Single Sheet Collection”, as it was made up of photographs, newspapers, documents and letters, which are now looked after as collections in their own right. The timeline of the collection ranges from a 16th century view of the city to election posters of the present day. The topics it covers range from the topography of Hamburg arranged according to streets and districts, the port, the surrounding countryside, events, portraits and subjects like shipping, militaria, administration and fashion. Gifts and bequests to the museum mean the collection continues to grow. It is currently having its inventory digitalized and it is also used extensively for exhibitions, publications and research.
The museum’s photographic collection includes many bequests of Hamburg photographers of the 19th and 20th century and extensive glass plate holdings as well as slide collections. The earliest photos are especially rare Daguerreotypes of the Great Fire of 1842. The collection focuses on Hamburg’s old town centre and Neustadt.
The painting collection comprises some 1500 oil paintings by different masters, from both Hamburg and other regions. The main subjects are portraits, especially of eminent Hamburg personalities, and views of the city and harbour. The majority of works date from the 17th to 19th and early 20th century.
After the guilds and craft authorities were abolished in 1865, their representational artefacts like goblets, signs, arks and emblems dating from the 17th to 19th century were eventually acquired by the museum. The collection also includes tools of different professions like sailmakers, coopers, turners and riveters or exotic professions like tattooers.
The museum holds household appliances dating from the Middle Ages to the present. They include pots, cauldrons and pitchers, tableware of every kind, kitchen appliances and devices for body and textile care like hairdryers and irons.
The Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte owns a considerable number of artefacts and artworks covering the more than 400 year history of Jews in Hamburg, showing their place in the context of the general history of the city and also looking into the religious and community life of Jewish people here. This includes imported Portuguese ceramics from Sephardic merchants in the 18th century, a Jewish doctor’s uniform from 1815, various oil paintings, medals belonging to honoured Jewish citizens of Hamburg, books, posters, documents and photos. Insights into family celebrations and religious life are revealed, for example, in a richly decorated marriage contract from 1644 and valuable torah crowns, pointers and shields, candlesticks and curtains. The collection also includes, in the broadest sense, anti-Semitic caricatures, posters and documents right through to yellow “Jewish Star” badges from the Nazi era. Almost all of these artefacts illustrate the changing history of the Jewish population from the end of the 16th century through to the present day in the permanent “Jews in Hamburg” exhibition. Culture and the arts, science and politics, business, religion and everyday life are all presented here, as are the persecution and extermination of the Jewish population during the Nazi regime and community life after 1945.
The handicraft collection includes artefacts made of every type of material. The goldsmith art acquired special importance in Hamburg, in particular in the late 17th and early 18th century. The many works of Hamburg goldsmiths of the baroque period are therefore of especially outstanding quality.
The museum gained a considerable stock of weapons and uniforms when it took over the Hamburg Townspeople’s Militia collections in the 19th century. This was then added to in the 20th century with more Hamburg-related militaria from collectors, but also e.g. with finds from the river Elbe, like the shipload of weapons from the wreck of von Wittenbergen from the beginning of the 17th century. Today the collection includes swords from the Middle Ages and wall guns from the Early Modern period, guns and pistols from the 18th and 19th century, cut and thrust weapons, ceremonial weapons, canons, armour and helmets.
The collection also includes a large number of topographical models showing how the city has developed. Some of them originate from the 19th century, like the model from the Hamburg Pavilion at the World Exhibition in Paris 1900 showing Hamburg’s revolutionary free-port premises. The many models of ships illustrate the development of Hamburger shipyards from the late Middle Ages to the present day. One model is particularly significant, the model of the Friesia, the first steam powered passenger ship in the world. This model was built for the Vienna International Exhibition in 1873. Another very special exhibit is the original construction model of the convoy ship “Wapen von Hamburg” from the year 1780.
The museum holds a collection of app. 300 historical musical instruments of different origins. The permanent exhibition focuses on instruments manufactured in Hamburg. The signed harpsichord by Carl Conrad Fleischer of 1716 is a highlight.
Hamburg’s Coin Cabinet dates back to the 17th century and is one of the oldest museum institutions of the Hanseatic city. It has been located in the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte since 1919. The collection comprises some 50,000 objects: coins, medals and paper currency. The collection focuses on Hamburg coinages, coins of the 10th and 11th century, coinages of the Wend Currency Association and talers of the early modern period.
The Shipping and Transport Collection comprises some 250 ship models, including specimens from nearly all renowned Hamburg shipbuilders, shipyard models, shipbuilding tools, objects related to salvaging such as diving equipment as well as a rope- and a sailmaker workshop. On the theme of transport history, the museum owns a range of vehicle models as well as several rolling vehicles like coaches and trams. Highlights are the bridge of the steam vessel Dampfer Werner which is installed in the museum and the large shipyard model of the 18th century convoy ship “Wapen von Hamburg III”.
The particularly strong folklore orientation of the Museum for Hamburg History’s collection during the first few decades after it was founded meant that many toys from the German Empire period found their way into the museum. These included dolls houses and stone construction sets, tin figures and military toys, as well as cardboard school satchels, drums and children’s toy spiked helmets. The museum also has various special artefacts from earlier centuries – including a child’s crossbow from the Middle Ages – but the main focus of the toy collection continues in the 20th century with Lineol and Elastolin figures, wooden toys, mechanical and electric model railways, parlour games and model ships from Wiking and Köster.
The textile collection comprises some 15,000 items of the most diverse types – from costumes and accessories like shoes, hats, umbrellas and handbags to woven, knit and embroidered artefacts like tapestries, pillow cases, embroidery pattern cloths and underwear. The relatively small jewellery collection focuses on two themes: jewellery from private bequests and traditional regional costume jewellery.
The museum owns some 800 items of furniture, including entire ensembles and room furnishings, usually made of wood. An especially interesting exhibit is the interior of the late classicist country residence Villa Rücker in Hamburg-Hamm, which includes 19th century wallpapers. The garden culture which is so important to Hamburg is represented by reconstructions in the permanent exhibition; baroque garden sculptures are exhibited in the museum’s interior courtyard.