Permanent Exhibition


On two floors the permanent exhibition presents exciting exhibits, operable models of historical apparatuses and interactive stations. Large film projections invite visitors to explore moving images and experience the fascination of film as a medium.


Exhibitions Department
Stefanie Plappert
+49 69-961 220 531

Filmic Vision

The first part of the permanent exhibition on the first floor of the museum provides insights into the great variety of visual media of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as the invention of film. On the basis of the prehistory and early history of film, the exhibition explains how filmic perception functions and from which traditions it feeds. It does so by focusing on the themes of curiosity, movement, photography, projection, moving images and cinema.


This section presents historical apparatuses that play with curiosity and the deception of perception, such as peep boxes, anamorphoses and kaleidoscopes. Visitors are invited to use models to understand how the apparatuses work: Mirrors help decipher the distorted images of the anamorphoses, a glimpse into the peep box reveals how in transparent images skilfully directed light transforms day scenes into night scenes.


Long before film was even invented, moving images were created using animation devices such as phenakistiscopes, zoetropes and flip books. In the exhibition, they are used to explain why people perceive a continuous movement when they see a sequence of still images. Visitors are invited to interact with the apparatuses.


The Camera Obscura is considered the first device that made it possible to produce an image of reality. You can experience the fascination of this process up close in the exhibition. Later, the invention of photography made it finaly possible to fix an image permanently.


The creation of images from light and the Laterna Magica as the most important projection medium of the 18th and 19th centuries are the focus of this part of the exhibition. A restored, more than 200-year-old hand-painted magic lantern and a digital projection of historical lantern pictures is on display and invite visitors to become projectionists themselves.

Moving Pictures

This section focuses on the last years before film became an established medium. We introduce you to various ground-breaking inventors such as Etienne-Jules Marey or the Lumière brothers as well as to the experiments they carried out to create moving images. IN addition to the original Cinématographe Lumière, a replica of the same allows visitors to discover the sophistication of this first functional film projector.


The highlight and conclusion of the first part of the permanent exhibition is a small cinema that presents the ingenuity and visual diversity of early film in two short programmes. We show not only well-known classics, such as the films of the Lumière brothers, but also rarities and curiosities from the archives, which otherwise hardly find their way into the public eye, for example the first film shot in Frankfurt am Main.

Filmic Narrative

This part of the exhibition on the 2nd floor of the museum is dedicated to the principles and means of cinematic narration on the basis of four core themes: Image, Sound, Montage and Acting. The main message is that the effect of a film depends not only on what it shows, but how it shows it.

The Film Room

The centre piece of the exhibiton on the 2nd floor is the film room, a film installation that presents a collage of film clips on four large screens. It demonstrates the diversity of cinematic means and forms of expression, makes them sensually experienceable and emotionally attunes to the contents of the exhibition. Projections in HD.


Here you can learn how camera perspectives and lighting settings steer a story and how film architecture or film tricks make fictional scenes realistic. On view are, among other things, the camera with which Wolfgang Petersen’s DAS BOOT (DE 1981) was filmed, and a set design drawing for GONE WITH THE WIND (USA 1939). Visitors can experience different moods in our light studio or roam through fictional worlds in the green screen section.


This is about costumes and make-up as well as facial expressions, gestures and body language as important levels of the cinematic narrative. How strongly clothes shape a character is shown in the juxtaposition of a dress worn by Romy Schneider in LUDWIG II. (IT/FR/DE 1972, dir. by Luchino Visconti) with a stunt costume from ALIEN (USA/GB 1979, R: Ridley Scott). Signed star postcards show that the way actors are percieved by the audience depends not only on their roles, but also on their image.


This section demonstrates how sounds draw the viewer’s attention or make a place appear real, and how music comments on the events in the film and charges them emotionally. In addition to the original tin drum from the film of the same name by Volker Schlöndorff (DE 1979), we are also exhibiting sheet music for METROPOLIS (DE 1927, dir: Fritz Lang). We invite visitors to experiment and see, for example, how the effect of film scenes changes with the use of different musical scores.


Here you will find an original storyboard drawing including the famous shower scene in PSYCHO (USA 1960, dir: Alfred Hitchcock), which illustrates how by combining different shots a story can be told without ever explictly showing it. Visitors can also experience the essential role of montage in cinematic narration in a practical way, for example by changing the sequence of shots in a scene.