Today, not only the museum collection, but the museum island itself, as an idea, is the subject of admiration for museum professionals and numerous tourists who come to admire them from all over the world. In 1999, UNESCO added the Museum Island to the list of World Heritage Sites as “a unique ensemble of museum buildings that illustrates the history of the development of museum design for more than one century.”
Museum Island demonstrates the history of human culture for six centuries. From ancient Egypt, the Middle East, ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Christian and Islamic art, to European art of the XIX century.
Strictly speaking, the concept of “Museum Island” is somewhat relative. Once upon a time on the island of Spreeinsel, its present southern part, a settlement arose from which Berlin later grew. And the northern part of the island remained swampy for a long time. And it was something, the northern part of the island, after drainage, they decided to use as a museum. Initially, it was a museum.
In the first third of the 19th century, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in the capital of the Kingdom of Prussia, Berlin, freedom-loving ideas, the philosophy of humanism, and education as a means of revolutionary cataclysms began to gain popularity. Under the motto, as we would say today: “Art to the masses”, the Prussian king Frederick William III decided to create a royal art collection. Why were bought the two largest collections of fine art from private collectors.
The design and construction of the museum building was entrusted to the outstanding architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. The museum building was originally understood as a temple of education, so Shinkel designed the museum in the image of the Athenian ancient Greek temple. In 1830, the Prussian Royal Museum (later renamed the Old Museum) opened its doors to the public. Thus began the history of Museum Island. By the way, this name arose only at the end of the 19th century.
From the beginning of the reign of the next king, Frederick William IV, the idea of ”space for art and science” began to be embodied. Karl Friedrich Schinkel was invited to continue work on the design of the entire museum complex. According to his project, the Museum Island was supposed to grow symmetrically opposite the royal palace, as if continuing its park.
The palace was destroyed by the bombing of World War II and demolished during the GDR, in its place they put the gray concrete box of the Palace of the Republic. After the reunification of Germany, the palace of the Republic was also demolished. And now, the work on the restoration of the historic Hohenzollern Palace is almost finished. Now we will be able to appreciate the original intent of Shinkel. In the park opposite the royal palace – Lustgarten, today it is crowded. Here, townspeople and always a lot of tourists like to relax.
Architects August Stüller and Alfred Messel continued to work on the Museum Island buildings. In 1856, work was completed on the New Museum. Then, already in 1876 the building of the National Gallery grew, in 1904 – the Bode Museum (originally it was named after Kaiser Friedrich), and, in conclusion, in 1930, the building of the Pergamon Museum.
The beginning of the 20th century was marked by a surge in archaeological discoveries. Kaiser Germany financed numerous archaeological expeditions. Sensational findings required more and more space.
After the devastation of World War II, a large number of exhibits were lost. However, today the museum funds are replenished and, as it is not surprising, the Museum Island again lacks space. Masterplan has now been adopted – a plan for the reconstruction of existing island museums and the construction of new buildings.
Museums of Berlin on Museum Island
There are several interesting exhibition venues on the territory of Museum Island, which may take several days to get acquainted with the exposition.
Today in the Old Museum (Altes Museum) there is a collection of ancient art of the Ancient Greeks, Rome, Etruscans – from the 1st century BC to the 11th century AD. Here you can see ancient sculptures of the corresponding era, vases, amphorae, jewelry made of gold and silver, coins.
In the New Museum (Neues Museum) a collection of ancient Egypt tells the four thousandth history of the state. Here is a unique collection of ancient papyri, sarcophagi, sculptures and decorations of ancient Egypt. Be sure to see the famous bust of Queen Nefertiti.
The second part of the New Museum is dedicated to the early history of Europe and Asia. Six thousand exhibits demonstrate the art of Rome, the Vikings, the famous finds from the excavations of Troy and much more.