Newsletter: Print: Facebook: Instagram: Calendar:

What makes the world go round

For those who suffer from the travel bug, the Übersee-Museum is sure to offer plenty of ways in which to discover other countries, their natural habitats, people and cultures. Yet there also are topics where national borders, time or climate zones, language barriers, as well as other differences have long since lost their significance. Be it with positive or negative impacts, globalisation has people from all continents moving closer together – which can be seen in the exhibition “What makes the world go round”.

Here, seven different paths allow visitors to recognise global phenomena and reveal different coherences: Worldwide, communication, global economy, climate change, sex & gender, migration, time or human rights take on a central role. They are a chance and challenge at the same time. What has to be done to deal with these issues? In the exhibition, a number of “hands-on” stations invite visitors to conduct their own research, stimulating them to call their own roles and cultural points of view into question.


Climate change

Climate changes are nothing new. In Europe, the last Ice Age ended merely a few thousand years ago, and older findings even confirm that this continent had had a subtropical climate. However: To date, worldwide, there is no historical model that can provide information on the degree and speed of the atmospheric temperature increase, since, humans are responsible for global warming this time round. Being the perpetrators of climate change, it is also in their hands to change behavioural patterns and thus alleviate the impacts.

Polar Bear


Melting hunting grounds: In the course of the last years, both the thickness and expansion of the arctic pack ice has decreased significantly. One of the consequences: In 2007 the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean was clear of ice, thus meaning it was navigable for the first time ever. However, for the animals of the Arctic Zone this disappearance of ice means that the size of their accessible haunt is also decreased - in particular for the polar bears.


Item on Loan: Alfred-Wegener-Institute for Polar Research and Oceanography, Bremerhaven

Vegetables for climate research: These transportable research stations are actually called “Tomato”. Polar researchers frequently live and work in them for weeks on end in distant locations, far away from permanent research stations in Antarctica. The “Tomato” successfully bears up against the harsh weather conditions that reign there. However, its surface has a tough time with the wind and ice there, which is clearly visible when looking at this exhibit.

Crowned Crane


Conversion with consequences: In the course of the last fifty years, Lake Chad in the centre of Africa has lost a large share of its surface. This is due to a decrease in precipitation. As a result, the fishing volumes are dwindling and now, for the first time ever, the swampy landscapes are being used for agriculture. This has also had an impact on the crowned crane, which lives there. Its population is decreasing, because it is finding less nutrition and fewer breeding areas.

Weser Power Station


Model 1:200, Item on Loan: Tandem GmbH

Finding alternatives: When considering the overall volume of energy generated, the share of renewable energy is increasing continually. Examples of this can be found in the Weser hydro power station, yet it also demonstrates that this is not possible without encroachment on nature, as the power station interferes with the biotope of the organisms living in rivers. It creates an artificial barrier. However, measures such as fish ladders can at least contribute in helping to overcome this obstacle.

Iron Ore Bands Itabirit

Donation to the Geological Collection of the University of Bremen
Donator: Heinz Emel, Item on Loan: Geological Collection, University of Bremen, Archaeological Site: Itela, Angola

Witness to the climatic history: Iron ore bands were formed approximately 3.4 – 1.8 billion years ago. At this time blue-green algae developed on earth and, for the first time ever, they released oxygen into the sea water as a waste product of their metabolism. Iron that is dissolved in the water reacts with this oxygen, turning into ferric oxides that are deposited on the ocean floor. Thus, iron ore bands also provide the first evidence of free oxygen in the atmosphere.



More sea water is dangerous: Ruff conduct their courtship rituals in the salt marshes of the Wadden Sea, which is under nature conservation. Yet they also breed and rear their young there. In the wake of climate changes, the sea level is rising. As a result, the number of salt marshes located by the outer dikes are presently threatened – and with them, the natural habitat of plenty of fauna and flora species as well.


When living beings come into contact with one another, communication is ever-present. They exchange views on different topics – and this is done via language, sounds, movements, colours and smells. Information is sent consciously or subconsciously, which is then interpreted by the recipients. In the case of humans, communication is culturally influenced, even though it does in the meantime occur without time and space restrictions. The result: Cross-cultural understanding on the one hand, but cultural misunderstandings on the other.

Tea Pot with Graphic Characters "Long Life"

China, Qing dynasty, Kang Xi period (1662-1722)

The oldest of its kind: For more than 3000 years, Chinese have been using Chinese writing and, in contrast to many other cultures on earth, they have cultivated the tradition of writing without interruptions. There are a total of 60,000 Chinese graphic characters, yet many of them are only used rarely. For satisfying everyday needs, it is sufficient to know 3,000 to 5,000 graphic characters.


Nigeria, Yoruba, Ganslmayr collection 1972

Making the drums speak: With the Yoruba, a drummer hits the membrane of his drum with a bent wooden stick. The pitch is varied by moving the tonal chords, which are located on the outer sides of the drums. In so doing, the drummers can create a high, medium and deep tone, similar to the tonal language of the Yoruba themselves, and as such they can “speak” with their drums.


South-Gabon, Ogowe region, Thunen Collection 1950

Contact with the ancestors: Masks like these were used in southern Gabon, among others for memorial, funeral and commemoration ceremonies. The mask wearer is completely hidden beneath a costume, and walks on stilts, whilst gesticulating wildly. The spirit of the ancestors is revealed in the masks. The facial masks’ white colour indicates a connection to the spiritual world, the ancestors and death.

Mobile Phone-Decoration

Japan, 2010


Individually decorated means of communication: In Japan, highly individualised mobile phone decoration is frequently seen. Bright casings, fashionable covers, stickers and, most notably, mobile phone jewellery, like these pendants, are a part of the features.

Temminck's Tragopan


The opposite sex is calling: When the mating season begins, the male Temminck’s tragopan presents its vibrantly coloured throat pouch. In addition to this, it pumps up meaty “little horns” that are located on the back of its head. The body is stemmed upright, and its wings point down- and outward. In the process, the male makes clacking sounds that increase in speed. All of this is done solely with the purpose of attracting the females’ attention during the mating season.


Bali, Indonesia, approximately 1920, Uerdingen collection 1934

The face of evil: The goddess of death, Durga, and her best pupil Rangda, who is also known as CalongArang, are feared more than any other deities on Bali. The two bring death, illnesses and doom to the country. With her bulging eyes and a long, red, fire-spitting tongue – as depicted in this mask – Rangda symbolises the “epitome of evil”.

Sex and Gender

Right at the beginning there was life without sex. Approximately 4.5 billion years ago, living beings reproduced through division or budding. Sexual reproduction only developed later on. To this very day, both forms exist. Many animals, and also human beings, have developed both genders. Yet, apart from their biological gender, sex, only humans also have a culturally ascribed gender that can change.



Producing offspring is impossible: When different yet closely-related animal-species are cross-bred, the offspring is viable, yet infertile. This most commonly occurs in captivity. A zebroid, as can be seen here, is the offspring of a zebra that was cross-bred with a horse, and the parents in this case were two circus animals. The offspring is infertile, owing to the fact that zebras and horses have a different number of chromosomes.

Grey Phalarope


Item on Loan: Naturhistorisches Museum Mainz

The other way around for a change: The grey phalarope spends the summer season in the arctic regions of America, Asia and Europe. In comparison to most of the other species of birds, this species is characterised by some special features. During the mating season, the female’s coat of feathers becomes more vibrantly coloured. In addition, she is also clearly more active, and it is she who courts the male. Once the young have hatched, the male is responsible for their rearing.

Dwarf crocodile


The water temperature is decisive: Whilst the gender of numerous animal species is determined genetically, there are some reptile and fish species whose gender is determined by the ambient temperature during the breeding time. In the case of the West-African dwarf crocodiles, eggs that are bred at temperatures just beneath 30°C bring forth females, and temperatures up to 33°C lead to males hatching. Hence, an increase in temperature owing to climatic changes can also influence the gender ratio of the animals.


Central New Ireland, Papua-New Guinea

Hermaphroditic: In the past, figures like these were a part of fertility ceremonies or rituals that were held in commemoration of the deceased. They do not represent any specific persons, but rather symbolise vital energy. The masculine features symbolise physical power, which have the purpose of providing protection of a kinship group. The feminine breasts epitomise fertility and the obligation to nourish the group.

Vessel with Lid

China, 18th /19th Century

A gift with special significance: The decor of this vessel depicts a dragon and a phoenix. In the course of a long period of time, in the Chinese culture these mythical animals developed into symbols for the emperor and empress or – quite generally – for man and woman, and thus also for marriage. For this reason objects with a phoenix and dragon motif have become popular wedding gifts.


Akhan, Ghana, before 1961

More than a toy: Although they were also played with, dolls like these additionally serve the Ashanti as teaching aids during the girls’ initiation rites. In the course of their initiation, the girls’ dolls were adorned with their own hair and bead jewellery. They looked after their dolls as if it were a real child and carried them around with them. Furthermore, women wishing to fall pregnant also carried such dolls.


Be it a second, minute, hour or day – “time” is actually clearly defined. Yet, when taking a closer look, it quickly becomes obvious that hardly anyone can really explain this phenomenon. Minutes can turn into hours or they can pass in a flash. Not all individuals have the same perception of time, not all cultures have the same understanding of “time”, and: Even animals can develop a feeling for chronological sequences.


Maasai, Tanzania/Kenya

Years do not count: With the “Maasai”, age is not expressed in years. Males are divided into three age groups: “uncircumcised boys”, “warriors” and “older persons”. Warriors have to be brave, confident and attractive. When they become warriors, they receive new clothing and jewellery, as can be seen here in the headdress, which is made with ostrich feathers. Today, the latter is only infrequently worn.

Galapagos - Giant Tortoise

Chelonoidis nigra Quoy & Gaimard, 1824

Impressive age: The giant tortoise is among the largest tortoises on earth. It lives on seven of the Galapagos Islands in seven subspecies. This means that every island has its own subspecies. They feed on different plants. Galapagos giant tortoises can become very old. Animals held in captivity reach an age of more than 150 years and a weight of 400 kg.

Disc from the Trunk of a Coast Redwood

Sequoia sempervirens

Where rings are a witness to time: This piece of tree trunk comes from the Springville region in California, and is located approximately 200 km north of Los Angeles in the USA. In 1958 it came to the museum as a gift from Bremen timber merchants. By counting the annual rings – which can be seen on a polished part of the disk in the exhibition – the tree’s age could be established. At the time it was chopped down, it had already reached an age of 2,333 years.


China, Qing-dynasty, Jiaqing-period (1796-1820)

Sovereigns’ names for providing orientation: In the Chinese calendar, the years are arranged according to the governing periods of the respective emperors. In the imperial workshops, for instance, a mark was made on the bottom of each piece of porcelain. With the bowl on exhibition here, the mark, which is written in old seal script, says “DaqingJiaqingnianzhi”. This essentially means: “Manufactured in the period Jiaqing of the great Qing-dynasty”.

Twin Figures

Yoruba, Nigeria
Kaiser Collection 1970-1989

One soul for two: For the Yoruba, the death of a twin is considered a great misfortune. They assume that twins share one soul. After the death of a child, the soul wanders between the worlds, threatening the still living child. To give the soul a definite place in this world, the Yoruba have manufactured a figure like the one on exhibit here.

Human Rights

In 1948, the United Nations announced the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Yet, although this constitutes a part of compelling international law to this very day, it has always provided plenty of potential for political conflict. Governments oppose interference in their domestic affairs, and commonly justify this with different cultural traditions. Notwithstanding, people all over the world stand up for these rights and thus push their advancement.

American Indian Movement


Unresolved situation: To this very day, the American Indian Movement (AIM) is demanding the return of the Black Hills, the holy mountains of the Lakota-Sioux. Originally awarded to the Indians, the reserve was destroyed after gold had been found and following the legendary battle at Little Big Horn. In 1980 the Supreme Court of the United States of America granted the Indians compensation in the amount of 105 million dollars, which they never accepted.

Children's Rights Movement


Childhood memories: Red hair, with pigtails protruding sideways from her head, freckles and striped socks! Pippi Longstocking has characteristics many children would love having. She is strong, independent and really assertive. With her world-famous children’s book figure, Astrid Lindgren, a pioneer of the children’s rights movement, closely scrutinises the norms of adults, and in the children’s phantasy, protects them against their reprimands.

Domestic Violence


No borders: Domestic violence is found in all cultures and classes, across all education levels and generations and is practised by both genders. However, despite the fact that domestic violence has been condemned as a human rights’ violation since 1993, belittling everyday myths, such as “a slap has never harmed anybody”, have remained prevalent to this very day. The victims, who most frequently are women and children, often believe that they are in part to blame for the violence and in so doing justify the perpetrator’s behaviour.

Cripple Movement


Unbelievable event: “Federal President beaten with a Crutch” – on the 19th of June 1981 this headline made the rounds in the daily press. To ensure that his blows could not be misconstrued as a slip, the Bremen citizen, Franz Christof, made sure that he struck twice. Following the motto “Jedem Krüppel einen Knüppel” (a club for every cripple), people suffering from disabilities launched spectacular campaigns that had the purpose of drawing attention to their societal debasement. Demonstrating self-confidence, they decided to use the phrase “Krüppelbewegung” (cripple movement) when referring to themselves.

OLPC – One Laptop per Child


Sensible accessory: Be it in Rwanda or Uruguay – the brightly coloured mint green laptops cannot be overlooked in children’s hands. They are versatile educational tools and facilitate access to modern-day learning. Having been manufactured especially for use in countries located in the southern hemisphere, their “rabbit ears” serve as range antennae. The display can be read in sunlight. And when there is no electricity, a dynamo provides energy mechanically.

Street Children


Forgetting the everyday worries: They sleep on pavements and go begging. Sniffing glue helps dull their hunger pangs and fears. Only a small number of the children living on the streets are successfully reintegrated into society without outside help. At the end of the 1980s, street children in Brazil founded a national movement that today is recognized by authorities as a contact partner on the theme of children’s rights.


Presently, there are approximately 214 million people who have left their home country for good. War, political persecution, natural catastrophes, but also the prospects of improved economic perspectives are factors that motivate people to emigrate. Yet, migration is no new phenomena. History has always been characterised by migration. As opposed to the past, the number of persons who repeatedly start anew today is increasing. Although emigration, apart from advantages, also harbours disadvantages for individuals, a globalised economy benefits from migrants’ expert knowledge. What is more, the emigrants’ home countries also benefit – for instance by means of money transfers to the families back home.

Reproduction of a Photo from 1970

Separation experiences: “When I went to Germany, my two daughters were 14 months and three years old. I left them with my parents. But, I missed them so much. People who don’t have children themselves cannot imagine what this feels like. My parents sent me this photo during that time. Two years later my children followed me to Germany,” a female migrant from Turkey says. 

Sand and Shells

Orbitello, Italien, 2010

Personal memories: A female Italian migrant brought the sand and shells to Bremen. “The sand comes from a beach close to my home town in southern Tuscany. I love being outside in the sun and miss the view across the ocean, the colours and the clear water. From Bremen to the ocean is quite a distance away, and besides, it is so different, so much colder and, because of the tides, it frequently isn’t there,” she says.

Picture by Alina

Grade 9d, School Complex Lehmhorster Straße, Bremen, 2010

Connecting elements: Within the context of preparing for the exhibition, the school pupils from Bremen-Lesus grappled with their own identity and lives in numerous cultures. In reply to the question “What is my home?” pictures like this one by Alina were the result. They reflect different elements of her cultural heritage in Bremen, which depicts both: Home is there where I come from, and home is there where I feel at home.

Pop-Up by Betül

9th Grade, School Complex Schaumburger Straße, Bremen, 2010

Home in plural: What influence does multicultural everyday life have on the own understanding of home? For the exhibition, Bremen juveniles grappled with this topic as the subject of artistic pop-ups. “My picture shows a Turkish-German mixture. On the German side, one sees the flag, my family and my favourite fish, Pangasius. On the Turkish side, there are chirping birds, my bracelet that I have had since my birth, and the ocean I love so much,” Betül explains.

Globes of Migration


Overview: In search of new living environments, people have already migrated for more than 100,000 years. Time and again entire “waves of emigration” could be observed. These waves were triggered by a number of different factors: Climatic, economic and social influences. In addition, improved transport possibilities were driving forces for migration. These globes impressively demonstrate who emigrated when and where.


Photos Veit Mette, 2010

A little piece of home away from home: For many people, the call shop, which in the meantime is found worldwide and not only in large cities, is an important “mecca”. Here different cultures come into contact with one another. Not only do the people make phone calls and surf on the Internet, but the room itself also becomes a little piece of home away from home in the distant country. Messages can be sent per Internet in one’s native language or daily newspapers can be read, and this helps the people stay in contact with their home countries.

Global economy

Following the industrialisation in the 19th century, the number of international economic relations has rapidly increased. Owing to the exchange of commodities, raw materials, manpower, capital and information, a global market has developed which, to this very day, is kept going by the work performed by billions of people, day in and day out. Thanks to communication via satellite and the Internet as well as modern transport facilities, internationally active companies secure benefits for their business location “world”. However, within this network, local crises can also quickly turn into global crises.

Mazda 3


Cross-section offers insights: This Mazda 3, which was built in 2007, came to Bremerhaven as damage in transit. Apprentices of AutoTec, an operating section of the Bremer Lagerhaus Gesellschaft, repaired the damage, dissected the car and put the car’s complete technological insides on the left side. Now visitors can learn about the inner workings of the most important, globally manufactured, individual car components.

Excerpt Model Dubai

2011, Scale 1:2000

Ever since Dubai has been investing its crude oil billions in the scheduled development of a centre for trade, finance and tourism, a top-class, glamour-league cosmopolitan city has been evolving in the desert along the Persian Gulf, as a symbol of the Arabian Nights fable. The constructions are continually breaking previously set records, and there appears to be no end in sight.

Design for a Low-Income Residential Building in Dubai

Excerpt Model 2011, Scale 1:200

Divided world: Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, who play a significant role in building up and expanding Dubai, are living under difficult conditions in communal accommodation. Currently, in order to harbour even more people, high-rise buildings that are divided in two areas are being planned: On the outside, the ocean view apartments are being erected for the rich inhabitants of the Emirates and on the inside, in a kind of pipe – which is enclosed and has separate access – the living units are located for manpower from abroad.

Siruells from Mallorca


Functional change: Siruells are Majorcan ornamental objects made of ceramics, and they include a pipe. They were already known in the 13th century and depict beings from this Mediterranean island’s world of mythology. In the past, they were used to ward off spirits. Their pipes had the purpose of defeating the strong winds on the islands. Later on the Siruells became children’s toys.



For more than 600 years, Schlachte was the port of the Hanseatic City of Bremen. With the construction of the new international port in the Walle district, the connection of large railway networks and the mechanization of goods handling, there has been a transition in the size of the ships travelling along the Weser, as well as the speed of loading and discharging. The change of transport vehicles, the introduction of containers and the deployment of large aircrafts has led to a revolution in Bremen’s port economy.



Deprived of their livelihood: Flamingos need shallow, saline waters. This water is sieved in search of little crustaceans, which is their staple diet. The number of flamingos in the Mediterranean region has declined significantly. Humans are responsible for this. By draining the lakes for industrial salt production, and in the wake of the increased development of free surfaces, the natural habitat of flamingos is continually shrinking.