The museum’s history

A dif­fe­rent kind of museum”

The 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.


From 2020 back to the begin­nings of the museum in 1987

WORK IS INVISIBLE / 2018 ‑2020

When we think of work, we mainly think of fac­to­ries, offices, machi­nes, tools, mana­gers, com­pu­ters, energy, raw mate­ri­als, and people working. All those things are visi­ble. But how, why, and with what fee­lings those people work, what chal­len­ges them and stres­ses them, what work gives and what it for­ces – that is invisible. 

The exhi­bi­tion nar­ra­tes how the world of work has chan­ged over the past 150 years – and how working people have reac­ted to that. It also pro­vi­des an insight in what awaits us in the digi­tal age. The retro­spec­tive should help to deve­lop stra­te­gies for the future, and the out­look should help to iden­tify limits. The exhi­bi­tion shows sto­ries of obsti­n­acy, resis­tance, co-ope­ra­tion, and moti­va­tion, of team spi­rit, iden­tity, and pride, but also of stress, fear, over­bur­de­ning, and hel­pless­ness. All the above are the essence of work and are made visi­ble for the first time in the new exhi­bi­tion Work is invi­si­ble

Cura­tion: Harald Wel­zer (sci­en­ti­fic direc­tor) & Robert Misik (edi­to­rial direc­tor)

Design: Ger­hard Abel, Wal­traud Ertl | Pla­net Archi­tects / Chris­toph Mayer CHM / Katha­rina Höf­ler, Michael Atte­ne­der | Atte­ne­der Gra­phic Design / Ange­lika Höck­ner, Gerald Moser | Ate­lier Wunderkammer



Check in and expe­ri­ence Hotel­Glo­bal! Just step through the doors and embark on your jour­ney around the globe:

Fresh straw­ber­ries all year round, the newest fashion every week and a digi­tal news update every second: glo­ba­li­sa­tion has many faces. The world­wide inter­con­nec­ted­ness of labour and eco­nomy, howe­ver, is com­plex. The new par­ti­ci­pa­tory exhi­bi­tion at the Museum Arbeits­welt invi­tes child­ren from age 7 and their fami­lies to go on an exci­ting jour­ney of dis­co­very, where they will gain insights into glo­ba­li­sa­tion pro­ces­ses in a play­ful way. The exhibition’s cen­tral ques­tion is what a fai­rer world could look like and how we could con­tri­bute to rea­li­sing this vision. Ever­yone is invi­ted to join the discussion!

The exhi­bi­tion is a pro­duc­tion by Alice Museum for Child­ren at the FEZ Ber­lin and the Edwin Scharff Museum Neu-Ulm in coope­ra­tion with ZOOM Children’s Museum Vienna and the FRida & freD Graz Children’s Museum.


From the cer­ti­fi­cate of poverty to the gua­ran­teed mini­mum income 

/ 2017

Who deser­ves to receive sup­port? This ques­tion has been con­ti­nuously dis­cus­sed and ans­we­red in dif­fe­rent ways for the last 150 years and has lost not­hing of its urgency. It is also the focus of this exhibition.

It nar­ra­tes how society has dealt with life risks such as dise­ase, old age and unem­ploy­ment. The jour­ney back in time starts with the so-cal­led “labou­rer issue” of the 19th cen­tury that initia­ted the intro­duc­tion of a state-fun­ded insurance sys­tem. The exhi­bi­tion is based on the Upper Aus­trian spe­cial regio­nal exhi­bi­tion tit­led “Help”, which has been newly sta­ged for pre­sen­ta­tion at the Museum Arbeitswelt.

Cura­tors: Brigitte Kepp­lin­ger & Irene Dyk-Ploss
Desing: Ger­hard Abel (Pla­net Archi­tects)
Visual design: Gerald Loh­n­in­ger

For­ced labour under Natio­nal Socia­lism / 2016

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 / 2016

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 | Archi­tec­ture & Design: Man­fred Lin­dor­fer and Gott­fried Hat­tin­ger

Memo­ries with a Future / 2015

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 / 2014–2015

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 | Archi­tec­ture & Design: Man­fred Lin­dor­fer and Gott­fried Hat­tin­ger
2014–2015 – Working and Living in a Glo­ba­li­sed World / 2006–2015

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 / 2013

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

The Just – Cou­rage Is Your Decision / 2013

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
  • Migra­tion
    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
  • Ausch­witz
    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
  • Red-hot/As­hen-pale
    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
  • Net­work
    The future of infor­ma­tion society, 1995
  • Family Chro­ni­cles
    The history of five Jewish fami­lies, 1994
  • Info
    A history of the com­pu­ter, 1993
  • 500 Years of Ame­rica
    Dis­co­very – Dest­ruc­tion – Defi­ance, 1992
  • Zeit-Gerecht
    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
  • Labour/Man/Machine
    The path to an indus­tria­li­sed society, 1987