The museum’s history


“A different kind of museum”

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 that would do more than just museumise labour. The declared goal was to enable people to experience the volatility of the future by shedding light on the historic forces of change.

When the regional exhibition was transformed to be shown in a permanent museum, the decision to take the path of a “museum in the making” was made. Instead of rigidly holding on to tried-and-tested methods, the institution was to interact with its surroundings in a flexible way. In this vein, temporary exhibitions were to constantly change the museum’s appearance.

Ever since, the museum has featured a widely varied programme, ranging from exhibitions about the history of technology to socio-historical and socio-political issues. The museum’s trademark, however, are its exhibitions dealing with contemporary Austrian history.

On the history of the building

Exhibitions. Selection.

From 2016 back to the beginnings of the museum in 1987

Forced labour under National Socialism

This international travelling exhibition was the first to offer a comprehensive narrative of the systematic exploitation under Nazi rule and its consequences. In Austria, it was on show exclusively at the Museum Arbeitswelt from 15 May to 18 December 2016.
An exhibition by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation, initiated and sponsored by the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and the Future”.

COME TO STAY – 50 Years of Labour Migration

A travelling exhibition on the history of labour migration in Austria, initiated by “migrare – Centre for Migrants in Upper Austria” and “Volkshilfe Refugee and Migrant Support Upper Austria”.
Curator: Michael John

Memories with a Future

A crowd-built exhibition:
Seventy years after the liberation of Steyr and the end of the Second World War, 100 project participants from various education institutions went on a cross-generational search for traces of memory. Their discoveries formed the exhibition titled “Memories with a Future”.
Idea, concept & implementation: Museum Arbeitswelt | Exhibition design: Erich Aufreiter (

FROM BOOM TO CIVIL WAR. Steyr between 1914 and 1934

Special exhibition at the Museum Arbeitswelt on the social, political and economic development of Steyr from the outbreak of the First World War to the Austrian Civil War in February 1934.
Curator: Florian Wenninger
2014–2015 – Working and Living in a Globalised World

Permanent exhibition at the Museum Arbeitswelt on the present and future of labour and the consequences of globalisation on working, living and society.
Scientific lead: Josef Weidenholzer, JKU Linz | Design: Arno Grünberger, Spurwien

AT YOUR SERVICE – Art and the World of Labour

An exhibition by the Vienna Technical Museum and the ERSTE Foundation.

The Just – Courage Is Your Decision

An exhibition by the Austrian Friends of Yad VaShem.
Curated and designed by Michael John, Albert Lichtblau and Manfred Lindorfer.

Another Type of Globalisation

Photo exhibition by Katharina Mouratidi, 2012

Environment – Between Conflict and Cooperation

Special exhibition by Adelphi Research, Adelphi Consult and Weltformat Design, 2011

Home Game : Away Game – Migration in Austrian Football

Special exhibition on the occasion of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, in cooperation with Fare and fairplay, 2010

No Glitter and Glamour. Prostitution and the Trafficking of Women in Times of Globalisation

Travelling exhibition by Terre des Femmes – Human Rights for Women, 2010

Images of Work and Life

Photographs and stories from 1900 to 1970, 2009

Ferdinand Redtenbacher. Steyr’s Very Own “Leonardo”

Special exhibition on the occasion of the 200th birthday of the founder of scientific engineering, 2009

Our Steyr Diary, Volume 2: Generations

Project exhibition in cooperation with the retirement and nursing home Steyr Münichholz and the Steyr Secondary School for Economic Professions, 2009

Fanshop der Globalsierung

Sonderschau der deutschen Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung, 2008

Our Steyr Diary, Volume 1: Migration

Project exhibition in cooperation with eight Steyr-based schools and the Paraplü Centre for Integration, 2008

ANTI-SOCIAL. Travelling exhibition Welfare State Austria

Travelling exhibition of the Working Community Youth against Violence and Racism, Graz, 2007

The Austrian State Treaty Myth. Stories from History

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty and the 60th anniversary of the Second Republic, 2005

The Persecution and Annihilation of European Jewry 1933-1945

Travelling exhibition of the House of the Wannsee Conference Educational and Memorial Site, Berlin, 2004

The suitcase of Adele Kurzweil

Special exhibition of the Working Community Youth against Violence and Racism, Graz, 2003


Time-travelling to Europe, 2003

Inventors. Patents. Austria

Technological developments and their inventors, 2002

Women at work

Women. Labour. Society, 2002

Faces of Islam

Photograph exhibition by Michael Obert, 2001

Stefan Zweig

An Austrian from Europe, 2001


An exhibition against oblivion, 2000

Bruno Kreisky

His times and more, 2000

No One Is Born a Racist


Anne Frank

A story for today, 1999


Period montages on labour and culture of the industrial region of Steyr, 1998

Pictures of Humankind

Labour and leisure in the industrial age, 1997

People as Special Waste

HIV and AIDS, 1996


The future of information society, 1995

Family Chronicles

The history of five Jewish families, 1994


A history of the computer, 1993

500 Years of America

Discovery – Destruction – Defiance, 1992


100 years of Catholic social teachings, 1991

Metal Lives

The history of metal workers, 1990

Red in the Country

100 years of Austria’s Social Democrats in the countryside, 1989

The Robots Are Coming

The future of the industrialised society, 1988


The path to an industrialised society, 1987