Yesterday's Future J. Scriba

In a new light

When Jürgen Scriba first proposed the concept of “Yesterday’s Future” to me, I was baffled. Seeing a physicist becoming an artist is unusual enough, but hearing him say he wanted to discover works of art in our cellars, sounded like a really weird idea to many of us.
Whether exhibition designers consider an object “beautiful” is usually determined by criteria like relevance to the history of technology or engineering particularities that in most cases only experts can appreciate. To us, the archives are no-frills workspaces, depots of raw material that yield splendid exhibits only through the work of curators. Since its foundation by Oskar von Miller in 1903, the Deutsches Museum has had an educational mission to collect historico-cultural treasures of science and technology and to conduct object-specific research, on which the communication of science and technology is based. As a research museum, we publish objects in context, not accidental finds. Photographs are employed as illustrations – a photo book almost devoid of text had not crossed our minds before.
The artist opened our eyes: in the spaces that are normally hidden from the eyes of the general public, the century-long process of collecting and safekeeping does indeed create constellations of strange beauty, accidental sculptures and unintended installations. When the first pictures were ready and the book slowly started to take shape I was baffled again to be shown the places I presumed to know so well in a whole new light.
Prof. Wolfgang M. Heckl
Director General of the Deutsches Museum
Scriba’s pictures are not only aesthetic metaphors for the passing of time. They also reveal how important the work of a museum like ours is in days of data streams that are reconfigured by the second and databases that are constantly being updated: making the “now” tangible in the form of concrete physical objects. Although Scriba explicitly wanted to ignore the museum’s typical didactic approach to the subject, he did create a historic record after all: the archives as you can see them in this book have become history themselves. Large areas are currently being relocated in the course of the major renovation that is taking place. Carefully packed and committed to external storage locations, for years many of the objects will not be readily accessible even for the experts.
Once our state-of-the-art exhibit archives have been built, which we want to realize through the “future initiative” of the Deutsches Museum, the exhibits will shine again as part of the research infrastructure that we want to provide to society. Moreover, the general public will gain insight into the works behind the expositions through a viewable storage area. The chances are good that you will be able to rediscover, in the future, some of the techno-art objects shown here.