The Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen is a museum in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Germany, the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship. The museum houses the world’s largest aviation collection and chronicles the history of the Zeppelin airships. In addition, it is the only museum in Germany that combines technology and art. The museum has been in its current location at the Hafenbahnhof (harbour railway station) since it was reopened in 1996. The exhibition was designed by HG Merz.
In keeping with the museum concept of “Technology and Art”, visitors can see for themselves how closely these two areas are related. The work of art Zeppelin Swarms by Héctor Zamora illustrates this particularly well. The focus is on man and his position in the interplay between technology, nature, and faith. The art collection also includes works by those identified as degenerate artists by Nazi Germany, such as Otto Dix.
The centerpiece of the zeppelin displays is a full-scale, partial model of the airship LZ 129 Hindenburg. The exhibition also includes an original engine nacelle of the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin airship and a Maybach Zeppelin car. A great number of airship models, not only from Germany, are also on display in the technology department.
LZ 129 Hindenburg
As said above, the centerpiece of the Zeppelin airship display is the full-scale, partial replica of the LZ 129 Hindenburg, which was reproduced true to the original and authentically furnished. It is 33 m in length, large enough to convey an idea of the enormous dimensions of the original airship.
The Hindenburg was 245 m long and had a maximum diameter of 41.2 m at its widest part around the midsection. It was propelled by four Daimler Benz diesel engines with a capacity of 772.3 kW (1050 hp) each, and reached a maximum speed of about 130 km/h.
After the impressive overview of the partial model from the outside, the folded-down retractable aluminium stepladder invites visitors to go on board. It leads into the lower deck, the B-deck, which has a bar, a smokers’ lounge, and toilets. The passenger cabins are arranged on two decks, stacked one on top of the other. In the cabins, visitors can experience the special inside ambience of a 1930s airship and get to know the technical aspects of this aircraft.
The beds inside the cabins are made of aluminium. Every cabin has a wall-hung wash basin (with running hot and cold water from a tap), a curtained wardrobe niche, a folding table, a stool, and a ladder for climbing into the upper bunk. The cabins also have electrical lighting and are ventilated and heated.
The Hindenburg travelled 18 times to North and South America. On 6 May 1937, while landing in Lakehurst, New Jersey, the airship burst into flames just before touch-down and crashed.
Engine nacelle of the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin
The nacelle was built in 1928 by the Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH for the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (Count Zeppelin). The propulsion system of this airship consisted of five nacelles fixed to the hull. Every nacelle contained a Maybach engine, type VL 2, which drove a propeller at the nacelle’s tail. A mechanic was stationed at each engine at all times.
The nacelles had aluminium skeletons, the bottom halves of which were clad with aluminium sheeting and the tops with cotton cloth. A hatch, fitted with a connecting ladder to the main body of the airship, enabled the mechanics to climb in or out of the nacelles when their shifts changed.
This Maybach Zeppelin was built in 1938 in Friedrichshafen. The car weighs 3.6 tons and can achieve a maximum speed of 170 km/h. Its engine has twelve cylinders with a total stroke volume of 8 litres and a capacity of 147 kW (200 hp). The engineering design for this car was based on the Maybach engines for the airships LZ 126 (1924) and LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin (1928).
The media room presents 3D historic photographs of zeppelins. In addition, historical footage can be played.
The Hindenburg – The Reconstruction
The first large exhibition hall is dedicated to the history and fate of the LZ 129 Hindenburg, the “luxury liner of the skies”, who burned and crashed on 6 May 1937 in Lakehurst during a landing maneuver. The famous live report by Herbert Mossison, now a classic of radio coverage, documents the dramatic disaster that killed 13 of the 36 passengers and 22 of the 61 crew members. Even a man of the American ground crew died.
This exhibition hall shows how passengers experienced airship trips to North and South America in the 1930s. The travel arrangements to be made, the formalities and safety regulations, but also the luxury on board.
An important part of the exhibition is the critical illumination of the role of Zeppelins in National Socialism.
From the large exhibition hall, the visitor steps into the faithful reconstruction of the passenger areas of the LZ 129 Hindenburg. The promenade deck in the Bauhaus design of the 1930s, original passenger cabins with hinged sinks and toilet facilities are shown.
Within the reconstruction, visitors also gain insight into the daily work of the on-board staff. The people behind the technology are illuminated here: From the cell care provider to the radio operator. Here is also the largest surviving wreckage of the LZ 129 Hindenburg issued: the rudder arm.
From the Hot Air Balloon to the Zeppelin NT – The History of the Airships
In the adjoining exhibition hall, which extends into the east wing of the museum, numerous, elaborately crafted models and original exhibits, films and photos chronologically chronicle the history of air navigation.
From the dawn of the Montgolfier brothers with their hot air balloons of the late 18th century to the Zeppelin NT (New Technology) of our day, visitors will learn everything about the development of airship travel from its beginnings to today.
Visitors can find out about the journeys over the Atlantic, the circumnavigation of the globe or the polar travel. Unique exhibits tell stories, document the euphoria and shed light on the legend of the giants of the skies. An important aspect is also the development of the airships to the war equipment and the inserts during the First World War. Based on the historical facts, the question of the importance of the phenomenon of airship is also asked today.
The Zeppelin Family – The Company
Parallel to the airship history, the development of the Zeppelin Group is still presented today. Until 1918, airship and company history are closely linked. With the diversification of the company from 1920, the two lines of development continue to diverge until they are told completely apart from each other with the end of rigid airship, depicted in the museum’s east wing. The period shown here from 1933 to today thematizes the integration of the Zeppelin Group with the Nazi war economy, the destruction of Friedrichshafen and the reorganization and reconstruction of industrial plants after 1945. Of the large number of companies since 1908 from the airship ZeppelinToday, the two global groups ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Zeppelin GmbH belong to the Zeppelin Foundation, which became the property of the city of Friedrichshafen in 1947.
The Wunderkammer – The Devotional Items
The Wunderkammer will display more than 350 exhibits such as postal documents and stamps, souvenirs, medals, porcelain plates and cups, tin toys and zeppelin knick-knacks of all kinds.
The Aerospace Laboratory – The Experimental Station
In the western wing of the building, aviation technology becomes vivid and can be experienced for yourself. At numerous experimentation stations, visitors can find out for themselves how buoyancy works, why the streamline shape was developed and how airship gearboxes work.
Zeppelin Cabinet of Curiosities
The cabinet hosts many small pieces of zeppelin history: coins, porcelain, post documents, tin toys, and Zeppelin bibelot of all kinds. Numerous exhibits are presented in large display cases. Additional background information can be found on iPads showing 3D models of the exhibits.
Uplift, Propulsion, Aerodynamics – Giants in Motion
This wing of the museum is specially designed for children and young-at-hearts. Numerous experiments, original exhibits, and touchable replicas invite visitors to interact with the displays and try them out on their own.
In the art collection, the connection between art and the subject of Zeppelins is established. The present collection was started in 1948, as the old museum had been completely destroyed by bombs during World War II. Of particular importance are works of art by artists who went into Inner Emigration at the time of the Third Reich and retired to the Lake Constance region like Otto Dix, Max Ackermann, Willi Baumeister, Erich Heckel, Julius Bissier, and others.
The holdings of the Municipal Lake Constance Museum of 1927 fell in 1944 air raids to the victim. All objects and the museum building were destroyed. The beginnings of the new collection date back to 1948. It was to be linked with the purchase of new works of art to the collecting activity of the prewar period. The museum was reopened in 1957 in the new city hall building on Adenauer Platz with a new art collection of mainly regional art. In 1996, the art collection was moved to the building of the Old Port Railway Station and became part of the Zeppelin Museum – Technology and Art.
With nearly 4,000 works, the Zeppelin Museum has an art collection that gathers the greatest masters from southern Germany from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age, drawing a bridge to contemporary art. A special focus is on the works of the artists who retreated to the “Inner Emigration” on Lake Constance during the Third Reich, such as Otto Dix, Max Ackermann or Erich Heckel. The numerically largest share with approx. 2500 works forms the graphic collection.
Famous medieval carvers of the Ulm school, such as Hans Multscher and Jörg Stocker, or the Memmingen altar carver Ivo Strigel are also represented in the collection with central works.
Another focus is Baroque painting. The Zeppelin Museum has paintings by Johann Heinrich Schönfeld, one of the most important German painters of the second half of the 17th century, and Johann Heiß.
A special highlight of the collection is the estate of photographer Andreas Feininger (1906-1999). It includes 565 Feininger-authorized photographic prints, 261 of which are autographed, several of his cameras, Kodak Super-XX films, film boxes, and cartridges that Feininger used to work with. In addition, the archive contains numerous original editions of the LIFE magazine, catalogs, books and photo manuals that Feininger has published.
The unique art collection of the museum is shown in changing, non-permanent collection presentations. In combination with temporary exhibitions of contemporary art, these reflect the Zeppelin Museum’s claim to actively integrate its own collection into current art-theoretical and socio-political discourses.
Héctor Zamora’s Sciame de dirigibili – Zeppelin Swarms
The first of the art exhibits to be encountered in the museum, these little Zeppelins are part of the art work Zeppelin Swarms by Héctor Zamora (1974 Mexico City, Mexico) which defines the connection between the technology and the art departments.
His project, first shown at the 53rd Venice Biennale, stimulates the viewer’s imagination. The visitors become witnesses to an event in Venice that actually never happened, an invasion of Venice by a large number of Zeppelins. For this purpose, Zamora shows the Zeppelin swarm in different art genres: post cards, drawings, paintings by venetian street artists, advertisement in the press, and an animated video which was spread on the internet. While actual swarm of zeppelins over Venice did not take place, the photographs are very realistic.
The only real and visible element that actually appeared in the cityscape of Venice was an airship, which was shown stuck between two houses. Now, its deflated hull covers the floor of the major exhibition space.
Man and Technology – Man and Nature
The section Man and Technology demonstrates the high level of creativity and innovation that humans are capable of when it comes to technology and art. The focus is on man and his position in the interplay between technology, nature, and faith.
In the section man and nature, it is shown that the relation between humans and nature is an emotional, aesthetic, and religious connection, which changed over the centuries. The term “natural landscape” developed because of the industrialization and its impact on nature and landscape.
Archive and library
The Zeppelin Collection and LZ Archives form a competency center on the history of German airship building, whilst the art department carries out research in the field of Lake Constance regional art and crafts.
The corporate archive of the Zeppelin airship-building limited company in Friedrichshafen fills a depot of the Zeppelin Museum. The archive stores documents on every business transaction of the company, from the very beginnings through the 1960s. It also includes Count Zeppelin’s correspondence from the time he conceived his airship-building project. In addition, the archives contain the estates of important personages of Zeppelin history such as Hugo Eckener, Hans von Schiller, and Wilhelm Ernst Dörr. Collections of construction drawings, posters, prints, newspaper cuttings, photographs, films, etc., complete the archive collections.
The library holds and collects publications on the subjects of the museum’s two departments. The bulk of the collection is composed of books and journals on the history and technology of regional, national, and international aviation; and on Zeppelin development; as well as biographies of the personages and the stories of the companies involved in these fields. The library collects a great number and variety of art books and journals. The library is an open-shelf, non-lending library which means that the books and journals are freely accessible on shelves in the reading room, but may only be read there.
The Zeppelin Museum is to be expanded by 7,000 square meters by 2035. The first step is the creation of a separate art house for the art collection.
Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen: Through the museum in under 4 minutes on Youtube
Nice new worlds. Virtual Realities in Contemporary Art
Cult! Legends, stars and icons
Stream-line shape. The fascination of low resistance
The museum shop offers books, watches and jewellery, model construction kits, calendars, collectible items, DVDs, and other items. Beside zeppelin souvenirs, all available publications on the collection themes and catalogues of the exhibits can also be acquired.
Museum shop and harbor restaurant
On the ground floor is the museum shop with literature, photographs and zeppelin souvenirs.
The harbor restaurant is accessible from the first floor of the museum and from the outside. It is still in the same place as before in the historic harbor station.
Circle of Friends
The Circle of Friends for the Promotion of the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen was founded in 1983 and has 1,600 members and friends throughout the world. He was involved in the financing of the museum and holds at the Zeppelin Museum GmbH 30 percent. The Friends donated his collection of exhibits of Friedrichshafen.