In a former villa of an entrepreneur in Weisswasser, the history of the former European center of the glass industry is illustrated.
The development of Weisswasser is intertwined closely with the glass industry. When the Berlin-Görlitz railway line was opened in 1866/67, the little village in the district of Muskau was suddenly connected to the world. And because all the natural resources needed for glass production – clay, silica sand, wood and coal – were available in the local area, attempts were made to start production in Weisswasser. The first attempt failed because of lack of expertise among the Görlitz merchants who operated the Zwahr, Neubauer & Co. glass factory from 1872 to 1876. But then the entrepreneur Wilhelm Gelsdorf arrived from Glatz (now Kłodzko in Poland) with 26 glassmaking families in his wake and bought up the insolvent company. The great success of the Gelsdorf, Neubauer & Co. glass factory attracted more new companies. Before long, Weisswasser had eleven glass factories and five glass refineries. In 1900, about 75% of the population of Weisswasser were employed in the glass industry. The village had become a town and the town the European centre of glass production. In 1996, a glass museum was opened in the former villa of the Gelsdorf family, which has set itself the task of preserving knowledge about the manufacture of glass. In an impressively staged exhibition the beauty of the material and the products made from glass are presented, as are details of its production and processing.
Icon of the modern age
The Weißwasser Glass Museum is the only museum of its kind in the Eastern German States. It is located at the villa of the Gelsdorf entrepreneurial family. Wilhelm Gelsdorf was the first to run a successful glass work factory in Weißwasser, starting in 1877. The exhibition on the 1st floor, shows the ground-breaking lamp and glass designs by Wilhelm Wagenfeld. The glass designer and artistic director of the “Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke” (Lusatian glasswork factories) made Weißwasser one of the most important European glass centres. His range of high-quality diamond-shaped glass was defining: ashtrays, chalices, vases and table lamps.