Grafik St.Antony-Hütte Museum Eisenheim Oberhausen

A Bright World... ?

Children's lives along the Ruhr and Emscher 1900 - 1960

Children riding their bikes

Together with the Ruhr Museum in Essen, the LVR Industrial Museum will present its new special exhibition " A Bright World...? Children's Life in the Ruhr and Emscher 1900 - 1960" in the St. Antony Ironworks. Selected photographs from the two large picture archives in the Ruhr region provide an insight into the diverse lives of children in the region around Oberhausen in the first half of the 20th century.

children on a funfair

Whether at a children's festival, at the funfair, playing in the street or bathing in the Rhine-Herne Canal - at first glance, these are pictures of a happy childhood captured by the photographers. The children seem well cared for and happy. However, if you look more closely, the photographs reveal that reality was much more complex than the bright world that some of the photographs imply.

The first half of the 20th century was marked by great upheavals and contrasts. Serious and idyllic living conditions were close together and reflected in contemporary photography. The two world wars in particular had a great influence on the lives of children. While one photograph from the time of the First World War shows children peacefully playing, another from the same period documents young apprentices, still children themselves, building grenades at the Gutehoffnungshütte (GHH) in Sterkrade. And while some girls enthusiastically stretch their arms at a National Socialist harvest festival, a few years later their peers sit terrified in a GHH mine shaft that serves as a bunker.

children in a grenade workshop

The exhibition shows 50 historical photographs dating back to the time of the German Empire. These pictures were selected from the holdings of the Ruhr Museum in Essen and the LVR Industrial Museum in Oberhausen, such as from the historical picture archive of the Gutehoffnungshütte (GHH). This selection is supplemented by press and author photography with pictures by Willy van Heekern, Rudolf Holtappel, Marga Kingler, Anne Winterer and other contemporary photographers.

children at school at their desks

The photographs accompany generations of children through the different stages of their lives. Starting with the first cry of an infant dangling upside down after birth, through toddler care to the school desk where two boys rack their brains over a maths problem. They show the entry into working life with a shot of sewing girls in domestic school or with mining apprentices in a practice gallery of the Vondern colliery.

Be it visiting the funfair on the caterpillar, in the improvised soapbox or on a dare - the shots present a kaleidoscope of the diverse lives of children against the backdrop of the Ruhr region.

Photo credits

Photo 1: © Fritz Henle / LVR Industrial Museum; Duisburg, 1950-1970s

Photo 2: © Willy van Heekern / Photo Archive Ruhr Museum; Essen, September 1952

Photo 3: © GHH factory photograph / LVR Industrial Museum; Oberhausen 1914-1918

Photo 4: © Anne Winterer / LVR Industrial Museum; 1930s

22.06.23 - 16.06.24

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Friday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

€5.50, reduced €4.50 (combined ticket for special and permanent exhibition). Children and young people have free admission to the LVR Industrial Museum.

Further information:
kulturinfo rheinland
Tel.: 02234/9921-555 (Mon - Fri 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sat, Sun and public holidays 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.)

Exhibition venue:
LVR Industrial Museum
St. Antony Ironworks
Antoniestrasse 32-34
46119 Oberhausen