The Museum of Hamburg History was founded in 1908. In 1922, it moved to its present building, designed and built between 1914 and 1922 by the leading Hamburg architect and municipal planning director, Fritz Schumacher. The museum was erected on the site of the former Bastion Henricus, a section of the baroque fortifications which had been built between 1616 and 1625 by the Dutchman Jan van Valckenborgh to render the city impregnable.
When building the museum, the facades were decorated with preserved architectural fragments of Hamburg townhouses and with the statues of German emperors from Hamburg’s old town hall. Fragments of buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842 or by development projects like the erection of Speicherstadt were also incorporated in the structures of the courtyard and exhibition halls. These fragments were the original holdings in the collection of the Hamburg History Association and formed the museum‘s founding stock.
The Hamburg History Association was founded in 1839 and built up the
“Collection of Hamburg Antiquities” which, along with architectural
fragments, also included arms, armour, flags, uniforms and guild
artefacts. The aim of the association was to promote awareness of the
city’s history among the people of Hamburg. The association’s collection
was nationalised in 1849 and on show in the basement of the Academic
Gymnasium provisionally until the museum was opened.
It was already decided in 1906 to build the Museum of Hamburg History, and its first director, Otto Lauffer, was appointed in 1908. He remained in office until 1946 and was followed by the directors Walter Hävernick (1946), Jörgen Bracker (1976), Gisela Jaacks (2001) und Lisa Kosok (2008).
The collection was supplemented and its presentation concept innovated continuously over the past century. Topics like urban development, the harbour, everyday life and culture are presented comprehensively and illustrated by elaborate models, large installations and a wide range of historical objects as well as pictorial and text documents.