Nahaufnahme eines detailreichen Schiffsmodells mit gehissten Segeln.


Come experience the fascination of sea travel at the Deutsches Technikmuseum’s exhibition “Lifeworld Ship.” You’ll be amazed at the close relationship between people and boats, between cultural developments and the history of seafaring, and by humankind’s desire to literally expand its horizons.

Please note: Parts of the exhibition Shipping (New Building: ground floor + 1st floor) are closed until further notice due to reconstruction work.

The Cultural History of Shipping

Visitors to the Shipping exhibition are welcomed by Captain Nemo on an imaginary set of his submarine, the Nautilus. The mariner from Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues under the Sea talks about the nature of water, the oceans, and dangers at sea. And he tells myths – about sea monsters and figureheads, the decorative sculptures at the prows of ships. Many sailors believed the soul of the ship resided in the figurehead. Any damage it sustained was considered a bad omen.

Blick in die Schifffahrt-Ausstellung: Zentral im Raum steht eine hölzerne Galionsfigur. An beiden Seiten verläuft ein Band aus kleinen Leuchtkästen. Im Hintergrund ist eine Vitrine mit einem Schiffsmodell zu sehen.
Galionsfiguren sollten die Seeleute vor bösen Geistern und dem Zorn der Götter bewahren. Einige der zahlreichen Mythen und Geschichten der Schifffahrt und des Meeres werden in der Ausstellung erzählt.
SDTB / H. Hattendorf

What it was like to live on board a ship is reflected in countless stories, myths, symbols, and aphorisms dealing with the interaction between people, boats, and the sea. More than 1,100 objects, dived into 30 thematic exhibits and spread across 6,500 square meters of exhibition space on three levels, provide insight into the history of deep-sea and inland navigation. This is one of the world’s largest exhibitions devoted to ships and boats.

From the Leather Boat to the Aircraft Carrier

Vor einem großen, schwarz-weißen Wandbild stehen in einer Vitrine mit blauen Sockeln verschiedene historische Globen.
Wie orientiert man sich auf dem Meer? Die Ausstellung zeigt, wie die Navigation auf hoher See schon lange vor Satellitentechnik und GPS gelang.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

The heart of the exhibition is devoted to deep-sea navigation. It starts with the chronologically structured exhibit “Ships and History.” Fifty-two model ships (scale 1:50) show developments in size and shape over the last 10,000 years – from the leather boat to the aircraft carrier. Other exhibits focus on a wide variety of themes relating to deep-sea ships. Five alone are devoted to the history of seafaring and different types of navigation: from rudimentary navigation devices to modern GPS.

Without advances in navigation devices, the voyages of discovery undertaken by Portugal and Spain around the year 1500 would not have been possible. These voyages in turn changed navigation techniques and ship design, gave way to a new conception of the world, and established a new balance of power on the high seas. The exhibition is rounded out with sections on sea rescue, whaling, and the production of sails and rigging.

How Does a Ship Behave in Water?

Eine Frau und ein Junge sitzen sich vor einem Segelmast mit aufgespannten Segeln gegenüber. Beide haben Seile in der Hand und machen Knoten.
Beim Trockensegeln können Besucherinnen und Besucher selbst Hand anlegen und Knoten knüpfen lernen.
SDTB / F. Grosse

For thousands of years, shipbuilding and its many challenges remained the province of purely experiential knowledge. Only in the 18th century did mathematics start playing a role in ship design. Visitors to the exhibition will discover what forces act upon the hull and how ships move through the water. They can even try their hand at setting a sail and tying nautical knots.


Inland Navigation between the Elbe and Oder

The ground floor begins with an exhibit on “Water Sports in and around Berlin” featuring many original sailboats, rowboats, and motorboats. After that comes “Inland Navigation between the Elbe and Oder.” Shipping on the many waterways around Berlin provided an indispensable foundation for the city’s development, with so-called Kaffe barges transporting large quantities of building materials from outlying areas. Locks and boat lifts made it possible for boats to overcome differences in elevation both small and large, and thus to smoothly continue their journey on the network of rivers and canals. Historic models are also on display that once belonged to the Institute and Museum of Oceanography and the Transport and Civil Engineering Museum (both now defunct).

Ein kleines, historisches Dampfschiff steht in der Schifffahrt-Ausstellung. Mehrere Personen stehen auf dem Vorderdeck. Seitlich ist der Schriftzug „SB2 -804“ und „Kurt-Heinz“ zu lesen.
Der Schlepp- und Schubdampfer KURT HEINZ war noch bis 1997 auf Berlins Wasserstraßen unterwegs. An Bord lebte die Schifferfamilie in der Vorderkajüte, in der hinteren Kajüte schlief der Maschinist, der die Dampfmaschine befeuerte.
SDTB / C. Kirchner


Der Humboldt-Chronometer ist eine Taschenuhr mit weißem Zifferblatt. Die Uhr wird stehend in ihrer Holzschatulle gezeigt.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Pocket chronometer used by Alexander von Humboldt

The king of Denmark gave Alexander von Humboldt this precision timepiece in 1830. For a while it was kept in the Berlin observatory, as Humboldt noted on the top of its mahogany box. Alexander von Humboldt made a journey to the Americas in 1799, thus ushering in a new era of research voyages using state-of-the-art scientific instruments.

Johann Heinrich Kessels, 1828


Der Kaffenkahn ist ein hölzernes Schiff, dessen Bodenplanken bis zur Wasserlinie aufgebogen sind. Am Heck des schlanken Kahns sind das Ruder und die Pinne zu erkennen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Kaffe barge

As the saying goes, “Barges built Berlin.” Berlin owes its development to the many surrounding waterways, on which large quantities of building materials were shipped to the city. This Kaffe barge, salvaged from the Havel River, dates to about 1840. It was loaded with roof tiles when it sank. It is the largest object in the exhibition.

ca. 1840

Der Nachbau des Dreimasters Creole im Maßstab 1:50 ist aus Holz gebaut. Das Modell ist circa 80 Zentimeter lang und 20 Zentimeter hoch.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Model of the Glattdeckskorvette CREOLE (1826)

A (sailing) corvette was a three-masted, full-rigged warship smaller than a frigate. The Glattdeckskorvette CREOLE had only small structures at the bow and stern instead of a forecastle and poop deck. These fast ships were mostly used for reconnaissance. The model of the CREOLE is built to a scale of 1:50.

Michael Keyser, 2003

Das Modell das Schiffshebewerks Niederfinow ist drei Meter lang und gut 1,20 Meter hoch. Es bildet das Original im Maßstab 1:20 ab. Die Verstrebungen, die das Gerüst des Hebewerks bilden, ähneln dem Gerippe eines Krans.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Model of the Niederfinow Boat Lift

Locks, inclined planes, and boat lifts make it possible for boats to overcome differences in elevation between sections of a canal. At the boat lift in Niederfinow, a 36-meter elevation difference is overcome in five minutes. This brass model (scale 1:50) will show you how it functions. It took 20 years of work at the museum, most of it done by volunteers, to finish the model of the Niederfinow Boat Lift.

Rudolph, Lambrecht, Masella, Tannenberg, 2014