In 1987, photographer Peter Wellmer stumbled upon a deserted building with an interior both fully assembled and in working order: the abandoned United Linen Factories at 48a Viktoria Street in Bielefeld, Germany. It had been built in 1913, and, by 1920, Juhl&Helmke employed 164 seamstresses there, who worked on dowry assortments of undergarments and household linens. Under one roof, linen was cut, sewn, embroidered, starched, ironed, and packaged. When forty years later decline set in, every expenditure was stalled; by the 1970s, the factory was in the hands of only four employees, until, in 1981, they too quit the building. From then on, nothing settled there but dust, and its deceleration locked the space into an interval of stasis and a corner in time long since past outside the building. When, in 1993, the space opened as the Linen Works Museum, it was a museum only at second sight, as nothing had been tidied up or interfered with. Neither wrenched from their place nor explained away, every object was left exactly where it had been left, where it had been lying about by happenstance. Textiles, especially, are vulnerable to dust, but no curator estimated their worth for preservation. The visitor simply moves on equal footing with the muffled pensiveness of the building’s languishing remains. At the United Linen Factories, the past has claimed its residue, time has said goodbye to its own present, and dust tells of the afterlife of the objects it covers.
Anne-Kathrin Wielgosz, Walsh University, United States
Stream: Other Humanities
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