Since 1917, the Haniel family has maintained a strict separation between itself as the owner and the business of its company, meaning that much of the family had very little contact with the company’s day-to-day operations. But over time, questions inevitably arose: how can we still maintain a relationship with the company? How can we inspire the next generation of the family to take an interest in Haniel?
In addition to early Youth Meetings, the 1960s saw increasing attention paid to the shared history of the company and family. By focusing on the origins, traditions and values, a common denominator could be found. Looking back over the history of the company and family was intended to establish the necessary cohesion by forging a shared identity. The 100th anniversary of Franz Haniel’s death in April 1968 was the perfect occasion for the first exhibition. And so, the idea of the Haniel Museum was born.
HR employee as head of the museum
Family and management agreed that a small museum would be set up in a section of the old packing house, which back then was home to offices and salons where the managers and family members would get together for lunch. At the 1969 Shareholders’ Meeting, the shareholders had the opportunity for the first time ever to gain a deeper insight into the company’s own history. Karl-Georg Dlugos (1928–2019), who was not a scientist but rather a history enthusiast and Haniel employee from the shipping company treasury and payroll department, took on this task. In keeping with his own professional background, he specialised in the history of Haniel shipping and the shipping company. His extensive contacts including former Haniel employees and captains helped him to establish the collection. The exhibits soon began to pile up in the small rooms. Employees and people from outside the company could visit the museum by request and immerse themselves in the history of Haniel in guided tours, conducted by Dlugos, that lasted several hours, followed by a coffee for refreshment. After around 25 years as museum director, he retired in 1993.
The collection grows
Dr Bernhard Weber-Brosamer, an Indologist by profession, was appointed as Dlugos’ successor. As part of celebrations for the 275th anniversary of the Rhein-Ruhr harbour in Duisburg, he designed a special exhibition called ‘Duisburg and the Rhine’ at the Kultur- und Stadthistorisches Museum [Museum of Cultural and Local History]. It was while designing this exhibition that he first learnt about Haniel. After then working on the Köhler-Osbahr collection, he took his place as museum director. During his tenure, he started to take a more scientific and professional approach to curating. He developed an educational concept, catalogued the exhibits in a database system and created the permanent exhibition that can still be seen in the museum today. The most important element in his approach to presenting the company’s history was the themed rooms, which he filled with carefully selected acquisitions such as period furniture. Weber-Brosamer also maintained contact with various members of the Haniel family, who donated memorabilia for the museum and so helped to expand the collection. His aim was to raise awareness among employees and family alike of the company’s – and, in turn, their own – history.
He was also interested in looking beyond the company’s history and drawing attention to other historical aspects such as artists from the family. During Weber-Brosamer’s tenure, responsibility for the museum was transferred from Haniel property management to the communication team. At the turn of the century, the old packing house was extensively refurbished and renovated. The museum expanded into the old salons, taking up the majority of the building. For Haniel’s 250th anniversary, Weber-Brosamer worked with Dr Ulrich Kirchner to create a comprehensive chronicle of the company’s history.
Entering the digital age
Shortly before the anniversary, the museum first started to employ external tour guides on a fee basis. Interest in Haniel’s history increased significantly during the 2010 Capital of Culture celebrations. At the same time, audio guides heralded a multimedia-based approach to sharing this history. With the foundation of the Shareholders corporate department (then still called Shareholders and Sustainability) at the beginning of 2012, the museum office – complete with its new head Daniela Stemmer-Kilian – moved into the ‘villa’. In keeping with its original spirit, the museum continues to act as an interface between company and family to this day.
In 2013, Marco Heckhoff took over the running of the museum. His tenure saw the establishment of a special exhibition area, which was inaugurated in 2016/17 with an exhibition on sustainability. He made it his mission to bring the museum up to the latest technological state of the art. Initially kitted out with iPads and Apple TV as well as OneNote software for visitor management, the Haniel Museum finally, after almost 50 years, entered the digital age. And in keeping with this evolution is the digital Wiki page on the company’s history, which was created on the basis of the chronicle as part of a cross-departmental cooperation project.
The Haniel Museum opens its doors once per month on weekdays and once per quarter on Saturdays. School classes can receive special guided tours outside these times. For upcoming dates, please ask Sandra Sikorra (+49201806231).