Further exploring the “whole new world”

With my post “A Whole New World” I described how one special book found at the flea market started my fascination for corporate history.

It started with this one company I wanted to find out more about. But this one wasn’t enough. The topic itself intrigued me. How did other corporates handle it? Did they at all?

I searched the internet and I have found different ways the idea of corporate history has been approached. The following sites are my personal Top 10 (in no particular order)

Daimler

I love how they put their product and its development into various historical perspectives (e.g. cars and women)

Porsche

Porsche went one step further. They have their own museum and invite you to a virtual tour

Deutsche Bahn

The history site of the Deutsche Bahn (German railway) may not be as interactive as some others, but it doesn’t only show the chronology but also various milestones in their history (e.g. The Track 17 memorial at the Grunewald Railway Station)

Deutsche Bank

Of course my employer was one of the first sites I took a look at. Their site is “read only”. No interaction possible. But it is packed with milestones, chronicles, pictures, FAQs and refers to the bank’s historical society for even more details.

Dräger

The one that started it all

Adidas

Using different media types (pictures, videos, articles) Adidas presents a beautifully made timeline starting in the early 1900s til today

Audi

Another German car manufacturer (two more to come) invites you into the company museum. And a detailed preview can be found on the history site. From the evolution of the models to their multimedia experience

Opel

I couldn’t pass the various german car manufacturers when I searched the internet for corporate history. Starting 1862 til the death of Adam Opel in 1895 the site concentrates on people. With the first car patented 1899 they focus on their models

BMW

That is the last car manufacturer I chose. BMW touches the topic from two different angles. They built a timeline focusing on their milestones and they seperately tell the story about their various plants worldwide.

Bogner 

Not a surprise that the company of Willy Bogner uses film as its media to present the corporate history. Willy Bogner is not only known as a designer but also director of movies like Fire & Ice or action scenes of Bond movies.

A whole new world

A whole new world

For over twenty years now I’ve been researching my family tree. I’ve spent more hours than I can count digging deep into churchbooks, civil registrations, last wills, and documentation of estates my ancestors worked for. Anything I could use to tell the story of my family.

But sometimes it’s an old book you find at a flea market that changes everything. And this one changed my view of what a genealogist can do – and can be.

A special book

A while ago I found “Welt im Wandel: Lebenserinnerungen von Heinrich Dräger”. I don’t think it was ever translated into English which is a pity because it’s a wonderful witness of its time.

Roughly translated it means “The changing world: Memoirs of Heinrich Dräger”.

Heinrich Dräger was the founder of the company today known as “Drägerwerk”. No matter where you live, if you have anything to do with medical technology, work in the Oil & Gas industry or in Mining, you’ve used one of their products. The company has its headquarters in my hometown of Lübeck and is a very important part of the city – you can’t grow up there without knowing the name.

In his memoirs, Heinrich Dräger described his life – from his childhood to the first safety valve he invented (the company’s first product) till the day his son Bernhard Dräger took over as owner in 1912. Heinrich died 5 years later.

There have already been many talented authors and historians who’ve told the story of Heinrich Drager and his firm. What was special about this book was how it broadened my view on family research.

A personal and corporate history

While the book chronicles Dräger’s personal history, it’s also a history of the corporation. The more I read, the more I realized that you couldn’t separate one from the other. The history of the person Heinrich Dräger IS the history of the company Drägerwerk.

This realization made me want to know more about the company. What happened since then? A few searches later, I  started exploring the wonderful section of their corporate website labeled “History”.

My most favourite part was the interactive area. Dräger used a combination of dossiers,  biographies, pictures, video and audio clips to build a timeline from 1889 til today. As a global player both in English and in German.

The story of Dräger, so beautifully told, inspired me to dig into the history of other companies, including my own. And it was like discovering another world. There were independent corporate biographers and companies with corporate history departments. And story after story after story.

I’m not sure where this exploration will take me. But all these years I’ve been interested in genealogy, I thought it was just about my family tree. And now I see I can use those same skills to dig into new kinds of material, new places, and new stories.

The world of genealogy just got a lot bigger.

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