Preserving and providing bread and culture

Deutsche Version
Eiselen-Stiftung Ulm

Museum of Bread Culture
Foto: Bernhard Friese, Architectural photographer

Museum of Bread Culture * 1955

The unique museum is dedicated to the 6,000-year history of bread as an indispensable basis of human culture and civilization. It was founded in 1955 as the German Bread Museum and renamed the Museum of Bread Culture in 2002. Creation and growth are linked to the decades-long personal commitment of father and son Eiselen. The first permanent exhibition dates back to 1960. It was the first and for many years the only museum of its kind in the world. In 1991 the funding of the museum was taken over by the Eiselen Foundation, an independent charitable institution; at the same time the museum moved into the Salzstadel, a historic storehouse in the centre of Ulm. Here the museum flourished, and in 2004 welcomed its one millionth visitor. A new permanent exhibition was opened in 2005 when the museum celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Comprising over 18,000 objects, of which 700 are on permanent display, the collections cover more than 30 different kinds of objects. The exhibits provide a record of the significance of bread to mankind. They show how methods of bread-making have changed through the ages, and illustrate the social and cultural history of bread. Bread itself does not form part of the collection, reflecting the museum founders’ firm belief that bread is not a museum artefact, but a food, freshly baked each day. A specialized library consisting of 6,000 books and archives complete the collection.

Highslide JS
The ground floor of the Museum
Foto: Bernhard Friese, Architectural photographer
Highslide JS
The second floor of the Museum
Foto: Bernhard Friese, Architectural photographer

interior view

The first part of the permanent exhibition is titled “From Grain to Bread” and presents the 6,000-year history of bread beginning with the growing of cereals. Various aspects of cereal cultivation are portrayed in some outstanding works of art (sculptures and paintings by P. Brueghel, E. Heckel and M. Pechstein). Historical artefacts, models and films illustrate the evolution of flour production methods, of milling and dough-making as well as the history of the bread oven from Stone Age to present. Sumptuous silver vessels, richly decorated glass and ceramic tankards recall the bakers and millers guilds – how they lived, and how they saw themselves.

The second part of the permanent collection shows the relationship between man and bread because bread is of vital importance to human existence, culture and civilization; it is a symbol of life itself. It is no coincidence that the image of bread is central to Judaeo-Christian faith, a fact which becomes evident by valuable paintings and illustrations of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, and by ceremonial objects used in the observance of the Sabbath and Passah. Conversely, shortage of bread – as a synonym for food in general – for a long time meant famine. Failed harvests due to climate were not the only cause of bread famines; time and again people have endured famine caused by war and migration. The exhibition traces the history of famine from the days of Ancient Egypt up to the actual world food insecurity. A further dimension is offered by bread related works of art. The list of artists ranges from Georg Flegel and Franz Francken to Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann and Käthe Kollwitz to Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Markus Lüpertz, among many others.

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