Please find detailed press releases about the museum locations of the German Oceanographic Museum below. They are intended to give a quick overview of the museum’s development since its opening until now.
All press releases can also be downloaded from the menu on the page’s right.
(Last updated: January 2022) In 1951, a small municipal natural history museum moved into the former St. Catherine’s Monastery in Stralsund. The museum thrived and quickly developed into East Germany’s internationally renowned Museum of Oceanography and Fisheries. In 1981, the travelling exhibition "Meer und Museum" brought East Germany’s most visited museum to the attention of ocean enthusiasts in West Germany and Denmark.
Following German reunification, the museum was restructured as a foundation in 1994 and renamed Deutsches Meeresmuseum (German Oceanographic Museum) in 1998. A combination of oceanographic research and outreach to the general public are key to the success of the museum, which presents scientific exhibitions and aquariums at four locations as well as on its social media and online channels. The German Oceanographic Museum is one of 23 cultural beacons in Germany’s eastern federal states highlighted in the Blaubuch. It is also one of only a small number of museums worldwide exclusively devoted to the scientific study and the museum presentation of oceans.
In the 1990s, the MEERESMUSEUM in Stralsund's historical city centre was complemented by two new museum locations: The NATUREUM at Darßer Ort in the Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park opened its doors with exhibits about the region’s coastal landscape and fauna in 1991. The NAUTINEUM on the isle of Dänholm between Stralsund and Rügen established an exhibition space for fisheries, oceanographic research, hydrography and sea waterways in 1999. The latter location also serves as a depository and has a dissection facility for scientific examinations of marine animals.
In 2008, a fourth museum location, the modern OZEANEUM, opened its doors on Stralsund's harbour island. This location features four permanent exhibitions, including the largest Baltic Sea exhibit in Europe. The OZEANEUM focuses on various aspects of the northern seas, whereas the MEERESMUSEUM highlights the diversity of tropical oceans. In 2009, the German Oceanographic Museum with its four locations ranked third in the list of Germany’s most visited museums, with a total of over 1.2 million visitors.
One year later, the OZEANEUM received a special honour when it was awarded the title "Europe's Museum of the Year 2010".
The last major renovation at the MEERESMUSEUM took place almost half a century ago. An area of 7,500 m² floor space at the MEERESMUSEUM is currently undergoing extensive modernisation. Scheduled for completion in 2024, the plans include floor-to-ceiling display cases, life-sized installations of marine animals, a large aquarium featuring a tropical reef, and a redesigned entrance foyer. The aquariums in the historical vaulted cellar of the monastery are being completely overhauled so that visitors can once again embark on a journey through the tropical seas. After completion of the modernisation, popular exhibits, including the Marlene the leatherback turtle and the famous fin whale skeleton in the choir of the former church, will once again be available for viewing. The sea turtles will also return to the stage - swimming and feeding in their 350,000-litre aquarium. All areas of the museum will have access for individuals with limited mobility.
In addition to presenting public exhibitions, the museum’s key tasks include collecting, preserving and researching. The dedicated curators and scientific staff manage growing collections, preserve new specimens and conduct cutting-edge research. The museum’s skeleton collection, for example, is an invaluable record of endemic and transient small whales species in the Baltic Sea. Thousands of preserved fish, crabs, birds and shells are indispensable for scientific research.
Until 1989, new specimens were primarily collected by the crew of East Germany’s fishing and merchant fleet. Collecting trips to the Red Sea in 1976 and 1979 added more than 6,000 specimens to the museum’s collection and made the construction of a unique, life-like tropical coral reef display at the MEERESMUSEUM possible. More recently, the museum has been involved in scientific expeditions to the Mediterranean, Taiwan, Sudan, the Maldives, Antarctica and to the deep-sea corals off the Norwegian coast.
In 1980, the German Oceanographic Museum launched an initiative to register all dead stranded marine mammals along the German Baltic Sea coast, with a special focus on grey seals and harbour porpoises. The findings that now span over 40 years allow scientists to learn more about the species’ distributions. In addition to dead finds, the museum registers marine mammal sightings by watersports enthusiasts in the Baltic Sea via an app. The German Oceanographic Museum is also a leader in the development and use of acoustic measuring devices for harbour porpoise vocalizations in the Baltic Sea. These diverse lines of research help scientists at the museum compile data that are essential to adequately protect marine mammals in the Baltic Sea.
Scientists at the German Oceanographic Museum are also successfully investigating evolutionary relationships among fish species and regularly publishing papers about undescribed fish species. The German-Danish research project "Hearing in penguins" has been of special significance for the museum since 2018.
Many years of experience and impeccable specimen preparation by the in-house taxidermy department are prerequisites for many of the museum's unique exhibits, including the whale skeletons in the foyer of the OZEANEUM.
Science public relations is the central task of the German Oceanographic Museum and takes place via exhibitions and aquariums and well as through panel discussions, collaborations and events for adults, families with children and school classes. The museum is active in numerous associations, including the German Marine Research Consortium (KDM), the German Marine Research Alliance (DAM), the European Cetacean Society (ECS), the European Association of Aquarium Curators (EUAC), the German Museums Association and the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
On 01.01.2019, the German Oceanographic Museum Foundation became operator of the OZEANEUM (previously an independent, non-profit GmbH). Unlike most museums in Germany, the German Oceanographic Museum is now more than 80% self-financed. Additional funding comes from the Hanseatic city of Stralsund, the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and the German federal government. The Hanseatic city of Stralsund and the Friends of the German Oceanographic Museum (established in 1991) are the two founders of the German Oceanographic Museum - northern Germany's most visited museum.
(February 2018) On July 11 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurated OZEANEUM located on Stralsund’s harbour island – the biggest newly-constructed museum at the time funded by the state. Behnisch Architects had designed a building that would give the UNESCO World Heritage town of Stralsund and its historical cityscape a distinct contemporary touch.
Counting over half a million visitors each year, OZEANEUM has become a first-rate tourist magnet. The museum is run as a non-profit Limited Liability Company and does not receive any funding. In May 2010, OZEANEUM was awarded “Europe’s Museum of the Year 2010”. The building’s structure is made up of four amorphously formed building complexes that resemble rocks being washed around by the sea. Each complex is connected by one light-flooded foyer made of glass. When entering the building, three original whale skeletons already catch the visitor’s eye. An unsupported escalator leads to the exhibition areas. It is 34 metres long – as long as a blue whale. About 50 partly huge sea water aquaria will take the visitor on a unique journey through the underwater world of the northern seas. The discovery tour starts with Stralsund’s harbour basin in the Baltic Sea aquarium. All the way through bodden waters and eelgrass meadows, past the chalk coast and across Scandinavia’s Archipelago Sea, the visitors experience the diverse local flora and fauna.
The biggest fish on display on the Baltic Sea tour are sturgeons which are shown in their natural habitat – the mouth of a river. In the spring of 2013, OZEANEUM’s aquarists succeeded in breeding common jellyfish for the first time. Since then, these fascinating beauties can be marvelled at independent of the seasons in the Baltic Sea exhibition. Meanwhile, compass jellyfish have also been successfully bred.
The tanks of the North Sea aquarium show the biosphere of the North Sea and the North Atlantic. An elaborately designed tunnel aquarium is dedicated to Heligoland, Germany’s only rocky island. OZEANEUM’s largest tank contains 2.6 million litres of water. It is part of the “Open Atlantic” display and is home to schools of mackerel, two nurse sharks and various species of rays. Two 20-ton acrylic panes, each 30 centimetres thick, provide an 80-square-metres panoramic view on two levels. Since 2015, specially built aquaria display cold water corals. In front of and behind the scenes, more than 4 million litres of water permanently rush through the aquaria’s water circulation systems. The initial filling of the tanks required 150 tons of salt. According to the exhibition organisers’ concept, the aquaria are the living completion of all five exhibitions and their numerous original and rare pieces put on display such as various self-made zoological and botanical preserved specimens. OZEANEUM also presents Europe’s biggest Baltic Sea exhibition including a plankton installation, a Baltic Sea relief to touch and elaborately arranged typical living environments displayed in large, triangular showcases.
A permanent exhibition on the Exploration and Utilisation of the Sea as conceived by the German Marine Research Consortium, the World Wide Fund for Nature and other partners was opened in July 2011. Among others, it involves a deep-sea diving trip, shows original exhibits and focuses on aspects of German marine research as well as overfishing and methods of sustainable fishing.
Further expositions show the biodiversity of the world oceans or feature a more hands-on approach to marine life for children at the Children’s Sea area, which was completely redone in 2017. One of the main attractions is the Humboldt penguins on the museum’s roof terrace. These agile feathered swimmers can be observed through large windows. Visitors may witness the daily commented penguin feeding at 12:00 am and enjoy a unique view of Stralsund’s old town from a height of 14 metres at the same time. Four penguin chicks hatched in the spring of 2017. Dr. Angela Merkel, bestselling author Frank Schätzing and other supporters took on animal sponsorships for these endangered animals.
The 1:1 Giants of the Seas exhibition in cooperation with Greenpeace is truly breathtaking: Several life-size whale models float under the ceiling. The biggest is a true to the original 26-metres-long blue whale. The exhibition also shows a plunging sperm whale fighting with a giant squid, an orca and a humpback whale beside her young. Everything culminates in a spectacular multimedia show with humpback whale songs or the sperm whale’s clicking that helps them detect their prey at a depth of up to 3,000 metres. Real-life models of a manta ray and an ocean sunfish are on display as well.
OZEANEUM also welcomes visitor groups and provides a wide range of educational offers for school classes, preschools or day nurseries. During the summer months, pedagogically trained staff members go on “Become a Beach Detective!” tour at the beaches of the region where children and teenagers can playfully discover the local flora and fauna directly on the beach. One aim is to draw the youngsters’ attention to the ever-increasing littering of the oceans with plastic waste. OZEANEUM is certified as family-friendly by the Mecklenburg-West Pomeranian tourist association and barrier-free by the German seminar for tourism.
(Last updated: January 2022) The MEERESMUSEUM in Stralsund's historic city centre is housed in the former St. Catherine's Dominican Monastery built in 1251. This location is the oldest affiliate of the German Oceanographic Museum Foundation. The main hall of the church was subject to extensive renovations from 1972 to 1974, during which a unique metal frame was installed in the interior. The main hall was divided into three levels to provide space for the exhibits of the museum.
Until 2024 the MEERESMUSEUM will be modernised on a floor space of 7,500 m². Die Werft – Munich was contracted for exhibition design. The plans include a new structure for the main foyer, floor-to-ceiling exhibits, true-to-life models of marine animals and a large aquarium with a coral reef. The aquariums in the historic vaulted cellar of the monastery will be restructured to provide visitors again the opportunity to travel through the warm seas of our planet. Audiences favourites such as Marlene, the leatherback sea turtle, and the fin whale skeleton suspended from the arch of the former choir, will be presented again after the modernisation. The sea turtles will also continue to fascinate visitors while feeding and swimming in their 350,000 liter aquarium.
Reichel Schlaier Architekten in Stuttgart won the European-wide architectural competition for the modernisation of the MEERESMUSEUM in 2017. The winning design combines a careful approach to the museum's valuable historical structures with confident new architectural concepts – a balancing act between monument preservation in this world heritage site and the demands of a modern museum with a well-developed brand identity. The focus lies on sustainable building, including the energetic renovation of the aquariums. Furthermore, many improvements are planned to make visiting the MEERESMUSEUM even more enjoyable and to provide accessibility.
The entire modernisation project will cost approx. 40 million euros, with the German federal government investing 20 million euros and the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern contributing 20 million euro.
Digital elements of the new exhibitions in the MEERESMUSEUM are funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media with 455,000 euro. The project comprises for example oceanographic themes on a digital globe and prospects of future aquariums.