Heinz Nixdorf Museum Forum in Paderborn
Located in the leafy outskirts of Paderborn, close to the Padersee, is the Heinz Nixdorf Computer Museum. I have read and been told that this is the largest computer museum in the world. I cannot comment on the truth of this because when we went, a large part of the museum was closed and of the other exhibits, many were little or nothing to do with computers. Still further exhibits were just vastly repetitive. How many dozens of old typewriters do I want to see in a computer museum?
We went on a Sunday in August and, while the building was not completely full, there was a large organised youth party looking around and quite frankly anyone not in the party was bound to feel that they were not supposed to be there. The museum would be much better if parties such as this could be organised on weekdays.
The other problem was that, as I mentioned above, a large part of the exhibition on the top floor was closed. Now I was very unhappy about this for a number of reasons. There was no advance warning to visitors of this and by the time you found out, you had already paid the entrance fee and could not get a refund. There was no reduction in the ticket price to compensate for this reduced exhibition and finally, as some sort of a sop to visitors, the museum had removed various exhibits from the rest of the building and replaced then with some sort of curator's choice from the closed top floor. Well, they may have done that in good faith but it makes a mockery of any attempt to follow and understand the guidebook or even to follow the signs in the building.
They have a website here.
Address: Fuerstenallee 7, 33102 Paderborn
Phone: 05251 3066 00; Fax 05251 3066 09
Open: Tues-Fri 09:00-18:00; Sat-Sun & Holidays 10:00-18:00
Cost: Adults, six marks. Family ticket twelve marks.
You can walk around and have a look at everything in one or two hours. It all depends on how much of the exhibition is open. You could spend a lot longer though if you start having a detailed look at various exhibits.
The toilets were OK and clean as you would expect for a facility such as this in Germany.
Disabled access looked to be fine. There were lifts and plenty of space for a wheelchair. A few exhibits were on slightly raised stages but they would have been the only problem areas.
There is a shop and it was very good with a wide range off interesting items. Not up to the standard set by the one in the Deutsches museum in Munich of course but good nonetheless. There was a substantial English guidebook too for a reasonable eight marks.
There appeared to be some facilities for refreshments too but they were swamped by the large party visit and we didn't investigate.
Making Sense of it all
Of course the guide book helps and, if you are lucky enough to go at a time when it matches the exhibits it is a boon but there were other weaknesses. As mentioned above, there was a large display of old typewriters. Dozens, scores, typewriters beyond jpoc's ability to count. But no explanation that I could find as to why. What were the interesting differences? Was the key to QWERTY, AZERTY and QWERTZ buried here? Also, one of our party was young enough never to have seen a typewriter before. "What's that?" He asked. Hmmm a cheap modern typewriter on an open table with a few sheets of paper to put in and bash away on would have been a great help in the explanation. The captions that were available were sparse and only in German. I saw a few real gems from the early days of of 8080 based micros. (Does Altair ring any bells) but there was nothing to indicate that we were looking at the first computer market at the home. How sad.
The JPOC review
The museum attempts to cover a vast range from the early days of writing to modern computers. It is airy, a pleasant place to be in and easy to get around but that is enough. There are some super exhibits here but they are so poorly labelled that only computer history buffs will understand what they are looking at. Also, some parts are outdated. There was no overage of any of the recent discoveries about the birth of alphabetic writing systems in the North African hill country.
With the building and the range of exhibits this museum should have rated 3 out of 5 but the poor attempt at explaining the exhibits and the random closure of a large part of the museum mean that it can only rate a score of 2 out of 5.