The museum building
A place steeped in history
The two factory buildings on the banks of the Steyr river that house the museum have been listed as national monuments and preserved in their original architectural form. They are an example of the industrial architecture of the Gründerzeit era in the late 19th century and originated in Ludwig Werndl’s knife factory. The buildings were incorporated into Josef Werndl’s arms factory, which was among the most important arms manufacturing sites in Europe at that time, as Object XI in 1881.
In Werndl’s factory, breechblocks and trigger guards for rifles were produced, providing work for about 300 labourers in 1890. From 1913/14, Werndl’s production was gradually moved to a new main factory and the building that today houses the museum was used for accumulator production by the Steyrer Werke, as the company was called from 1926. After 1945, the Hack Werke used the building for their cutlery production.
When Hack had to declare bankruptcy, the building ceased to be used for industrial production. In 1985, the Museum Arbeitswelt bought it at an auction and completely refurbished the facilities. The two parts of the building were connected through a glass roof, creating the light-flooded centre hall to which today’s museum owes its special ambiance.
The history of the first Austrian museum of labour begins with the Upper Austrian regional exhibition titled “Labour/Man/Machine. The path to an industrialised society” in 1987. Inspired by the “Dig where you stand” movement, it was envisaged as a museum of a different kind.