Offenbach: Museums in Germany’s ‘leather city’ show products from around the world
November 27, 2007
Offenbach is known as “leather city” in Germany.
And it is not because there are a lot of bars of that kind there.
The reason is that for centuries, the city across the Main River from Frankfurt was the center of leather manufacturing. There were tanners, shoemakers and saddle and harness makers. Later there were makers of luxury items and, of course, clothing.
At one time, more than 10,000 people worked in the industry in Offenbach and the city was, and still is, home to a leather trade fair. So it is only appropriate that the German Leather Museum is located there.
For the price of admission to the Deutsches Ledermuseum, or DLM, as it is called in German, you actually get three museums, although they all have a connection to leather.
First, there is the leather museum proper, the museum for applied arts and industry, with a section on how leather is made and another that exhibits leather items from throughout the world.
The German Shoe Museum is divided into a European section and a world section (closed for renovations at the moment), and also features a small art gallery dedicated to the shoe.
Finally, there is the ethnological museum, which is divided into sections: Africa, Native Americans, Asia, cultures above the polar circle, and a small cowboy-and-gaucho exhibit.
On display in the museums are, among other items, the skin of a giant crocodile, purses, suitcases and trunks. Leather covers for Korans and leather- bound photo albums can be seen, as can a briefcase owned by Napoleon, a python-skin portable radio, boxing gloves and a baseball mitt. A long leather coat of a German World War II officer is on display, as is the leather jacket of a Frankfurt punk.
African masks made of wood and parchment, a leather tent from the nomadic Tuaregs and leather bags from the Maghreb region in northwestern Africa are some things on display in the Africa section, while American Indian clothing, moccasins, shields and ornaments are in the Native American section. The Asian display offers an amazing collection of shadow-play figurines, including a set that depicts the funeral procession of a Chinese general.
The shoes range from a model of those worn by the 5,000-year-old mountain mummy “Ötzi,” to Roman sandals and shoes of the past couple of centuries. One observation: While the ladies’ shoe style has evolved over the years, ours, gentlemen, has not changed much since the mid-19th century.
There is a small section on shoes worn by famous people, including a basketball shoe autographed by Shaquille O’Neal and a platform shoe signed by the Spice Girls.
On the QT ...Directions: The Deutsches Ledermuseum is in downtown Offenbach. Exit Autobahn 661 at Offenbach-Kaiserlei and follow the signs for Ledermuseum from there. If you have a route planner or navigation system, the address is Frankfurterstrasse 86.
Costs: Admission is 4 euros for adults and 2 euros for children. Parking in the IHK garage next door is 1 euro an hour (closed Sundays) and the parking lot across the street is 2 euros for up to 2½ hours (free on Sundays)
Times: Open daily, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.
Food: There is a cafe in the museum that serves warm and cold drinks and snacks. There are plenty of restaurants nearby.
Information: The Web site is www.ledermuseum.de, with an English-language link.
— Michael Abrams