The transformation of the world and the history of the Rüsch-Werke –
A virtual tour about red-hot iron, smoking chimneys and human fates
Industrialization is a process that is still happening all over the world today. The slow, seasonal pulse of a rural society gave way to the dictates of factory clocks that set huge numbers of workers in motion every day. Masses of people lost their professions, often practiced for generations, to machines.
Contemporaries were shocked by the first industrial centers, where there was dirt, stench and noise. Factory work by all family members brought rising incomes over time, despite the often inhumane working and living conditions. Mass consumption gave rise for the first time to a consumer society, which in turn generated industrial dynamism. The emergence of a working class and a middle class changed society, modern mass parties developed. Trade unions were formed, working conditions slowly improved and child labour was banned.
The history of the Rüsch-Werke in Dornbirn reflects this worldwide development in miniature.
Industrialization began in Dornbirn about 200 years ago. Progressive mechanization and the constant hunger of businesses for more energy brought specialists like Josef Ignaz Rüsch from Switzerland to Dornbirn. He founded a company that was to be successful for generations. With turbine plants, machine tools and cast iron products, the Rüsch-Werke were also held in high esteem internationally. Today, the former factory premises house the inatura natural history museum and the Dornbirn art room. Anyone visiting the museum will discover huge furnaces in the old foundry halls from which molten iron was once tapped. If you enter the former assembly hall, you may suspect it, but it is hard to imagine how huge turbines, pumps or looms were once assembled there.
Embark on a journey through time and experience the world of that time from very different perspectives.
Thanks to modern technologies, it is now possible to experience the history of the Rüsch-Werke in a new way. In the course of the ViRAL project, a VR production was created with which an immersive tour through the historic site is now possible. It is part of the "StadtSpuren" history trail, which tells the industrial history of Dornbirn. It is a story of the people who worked in the Rüsch factories. A story marked by ambition and technology, success and failure, poverty and darkness. Four characters, the owner, the engineer, the forced labourer and the worker, guide you through the site and tell their story. You can freely explore the virtual environment. In the process, you will come across old photos that show what the site used to look like and provide further information about the history of the company - and help you to understand the stories of our characters even better.
The VR production was designed to be used for training of adults as well as archive and museum professionals. Educators will find a number of explanations, tips and possible tasks on this website.
The VR tour makes it possible to experience industrial heritage in a new way, to catch a glimpse of the past. It allows us to draw parallels to our own time and ask questions about work and production conditions, gender and discrimination, progress and technology.