An overview of the archival resources at the Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering. With an emphasis on European Industrial Art, the archive features books, exhibition catalogues, slides, photographs, prints, and posters.
The Grohmann Museum Archives
The Grohmann Museum Archives has its genesis in the life and work of Dr. Klaus Türk, a retired professor of sociology at the University of Wuppertal in Germany who dedicated his long and productive career to the study of visual images and artistic representations of human labor and industry in the Western world since the Middle Ages. He has written many books and articles and has assembled the world’s largest collection of images related to this topic. In addition to his work in sociology, Dr. Türk has also made important scholarly contributions to the study of art history, being one of the first scholars in Germany and Europe to seriously examine artistic depictions of human labor and industry within the larger corpus of Western art. In 2015, he graciously donated his collection of images, books, articles, and other research materials to the Grohmann Museum, and these comprise the core collection of the new Grohmann Museum Archives.
The materials in the Grohmann Museum Archives consist of a wide variety of visual images and textual materials. Of particular note are more than 40,000 images of human labor and industry collected by Dr. Türk throughout the span of his career. Many of them are copies of rare archival images from the Middle Ages and the early modern era. The original images on photographic slides have been digitized into a single computer database to facilitate access to the images. The Grohmann Museum Archives also maintains the original photographic slides.
Also of great importance are the many materials relating to various exhibitions that have highlighted the works of various artists during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Dr. Türk collected over 200 posters produced to promote the exhibitions of industrial art and artists, and the posters span more than six decades from the 1950's to the present. The collection includes posters for the exhibitions of well-known German artists such as Klaus Ritterbusch, Conrad Felixmüller, Otto Nagel, George Grosz, and others. The collection also includes posters for the 2002 exhibition Die zweite Schöpfung (The Second Creation), held in Berlin, and a similar exhibition in 2010 in Oberhausen, Germany—in the industrial heartland of Germany, the Ruhr Valley—titled Feurländer (Fire Lands): Regions of Vulcan. Both Die zweite Schöpfung and the Feuerländer exhibitions brought together a wide range of industrial art from various European nations and the United States.
The Grohmann Museum Archives holds the catalogs for these and other exhibitions. Several of the catalogs date back more than a century. One of the most important is the catalog produced in 1912 for the exhibition organized to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Krupp Iron and Steel Works in Essen, Germany. The exhibition Die Industrie in der bildenden Kunst (Industry in Visual Art) was one the first major exhibitions of works depicting industry and human labor, and this event set the stage for later exhibitions of works in this genre. Die Industrie in der bildenden Kunst included many artists who would go on to produce some of the most important works of art that depict human industry and labor in the twentieth century including Max Liebermann, Constantin Meunier, Leonhard Sandrock, Arthur Kampf, and Fritz Gärtner. The works of several of these artists are part of the Grohmann Museum’s permanent collection. Only a few major research libraries in the world boast collections with these inestimable scholarly resources.
In addition to these materials are approximately 2,000 books relating to a variety of artistic and industrial themes. Many of these are topically arranged and include subjects such as artistic representations of iron and steel production, the development of railways, the history of agriculture, the rise of the textile industry, and the development of construction techniques throughout the ages. There are also books that examine the visual depictions of human labor and industry in a variety of Western nations such as Germany, the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, and Italy. Books on Germany also examine the works of art produced in Nazi Germany and the communist state of East Germany. Others examine the depictions of labor and industry in the former Soviet Union and other communist nations, all of which sought to glorify the worker as the standard bearer of the worldwide socialist movement during the twentieth century.
Of great value to scholars are the various materials relating to specific artists who sought to depict human labor and industry. Dr. Türk was particularly interested in the artists of his native Germany—many of whom pioneered the genre of industrial art and the worker—such as Adolph Menzel, Käthe Kollwitz, Hans Baluschek, and Klaus Ritterbusch. Also included are secondary sources pertaining to other, lesser-known twentieth-century artists such as Franz Gerwin, Otto Bollhagen, Ria Picco-Rückert,and Richard Gessner. In addition to books and exhibition catalogs concerning these artists, Dr. Türk also collected news clippings, magazine articles, and original documents that stand as important primary sources on these artists and their works. While German artists predominate, there are also important books, articles, and primary sources for artists such as Jean-François Millet of France, Frank Brangwyn of Great Britain, and Renato Guttuso of Italy.
While the materials provided by Dr. Türk compose the bulk of the holdings in the Grohmann Museum Archives, other collections also may be of interest to researchers. Between 2010 and 2014, two professors at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, Drs. Patrick J. Jung and Carma M. Stahnke, researched the life and work of Erich Mercker, a German artist who painted many industrial landscapes during his career. The Grohmann Museum has the largest collection of paintings by Mercker in the world; indeed, the museum has 90 paintings by Mercker. Virtually nothing was written about Mercker when Jung and Stahnke started their work, and in addition to producing a biography of Mercker in 2014, they also assembled a collection of documents and images that are now part of the Erich Mercker Manuscript and Image Collection. This collection currently contains over 1,000 images of various paintings by Mercker (who produced more than 3,000 paintings during his career) as well original documents and copies of documents received from Mercker’s family as well as other important primary sources found in a variety of archives in Europe. Most of these materials (which are maintained in 13 archival boxes) have also been digitized to facilitate their availability.
The Grohmann Museum seeks to acquire additional archival sources pertaining to industrial art and artists in the future, and it hopes to become the world’s largest and most significant repository of such materials. Nevertheless, the Grohmann Museum Archives currently possesses a rich collection of images, documents, books, and articles that are available and open to interested researchers.
Dr. Patrick J. Jung, MSOE Humanities, Social Science and Communication