Physics played a prominent role at the Deutsches Museum right from the time the museum was founded. Explanations of basic physical principles were seen as a necessity for understanding technology. The exhibition presented many technological topics as areas where physical research is applied. Over the course of time, however, many of these topics (communication technology, for instance) were given their own exhibition areas. From then on, the Physics Section at the Deutsches Museum began focussing more on explanations of physical principles with the aid of simple demonstrations.
The museum's collection of historical instruments and apparatus is far larger than the selection on display in the exhibition. That is because, in addition to the exhibition activities, the mission of the Deutsches Museum includes preserving the material legacy of physics for the future. Historical objects are still being added to the collection, especially from the 20th century.
A characteristic of physics is the complex interplay of experiment and theoretical considerations, so as to formulate the laws of (inanimate) nature. The objective is to understand natural processes and describe them in mathematical terms. Although many important insights were gained back in ancient times, the experimental method and mathematical tools did not play a major role until the 16th century. The main emphasis of the exhibition – partly as a reflection of the collection of objects – lies in the origins of "modern" physics, above all since the 18th century, and its development to the present day.