The almost 1 km² Spree island with its five large museum buildings offers an overview of a unique cultural heritage that spans around 6000 years. It all started with the Alte Museum, built in 1830 according to plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It was followed by the New Museum, the Old National Gallery, the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum.
Museum Island Berlin: Facts
|Museum Island Berlin
|Museum Island between the Spree and the Kupfergraben with the Old Museum, the Old National Gallery, the Bode Museum, the New Museum and the Pergamon Museum, including the Pergamon Altar and the Ishtar Gate of Babylon
|Unique museum concept that represents the development of modern museum construction over more than a century
Museum Island Berlin: History
|Construction of the Altes Museum based on plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841)
|Construction of the New Museum
|Establishment of the Alte Nationalgalerie by donating 262 paintings
|1862-1864 and 1866-1876
|Construction of the Old National Gallery
|Establishment of the Islamic Art Department; Opening of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum, today’s Bode Museum
|Opening of the Pergamon Museum
|war-related closure of all houses
|Start of the renovation of the Alte Nationalgalerie
|December 2, 2001
|Reopening of the Alte Nationalgalerie
|October 17, 2006
|Reopening of the Bode Museum
|October 16, 2009
|Reopening of the Neues Museum
|Beginning of the basic renovation of the Pergamon Museum; Opening of the Archaeological Center (opposite the island)
|probable end of the entire renovation work
An island for art
On the almost 1 km² Berlin Museum Island between the Spree and the Kupfergraben, five museum buildings present a unique cultural heritage of mankind that spans around 6000 years. The island with the Old and New Museum, the Old National Gallery, the Pergamon and the Bode Museum forms a historically grown ensemble in the middle of Berlin. It reflects the architectural and museum-political ideas of several generations and presents different ideas of the respective cultural politics. According to historyaah, the reunification of Germany in 1990 opened up the historically unique opportunity to reunite the collections in East and West, which were divided after the war, and to tackle the only makeshift renovation measures of the destroyed or badly damaged buildings by the GDR through a complex restructuring. In 1999, UNESCO placed the Museum Island under its protection as a World Heritage Site. For the renovation of the individual buildings and the contemporary development of the entire Museum Quarter, the Council of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation adopted a master plan in 1999, according to which the renovation of the Museum Island should be completed in 2025.
The master plan
The master plan is based on the results of an architectural competition held in 1993 that was won by the Italian architect Giorgio Grassi. However, he later withdrew from the project. The approved master plan provides for all buildings to be renovated and architecturally combined to form a common museum complex. As a linking thematic bond, an archaeological promenade will reconnect the individual museums as an ensemble to form a total work of art. In this context, the London architect David Chipperfield (* 1953) was not only commissioned to restore the Neues Museum, but also to plan and build a new common reception and entrance building for the Museum Island collections. This will be taken over by the James-Simon-Galerie,
The Old and New Museum
Berlin’s Museum Island can look back on a long history that began at the end of the 18th century. At that time, the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm II took up the suggestion of the archaeologist Aloys Hirt for a museum that should serve the exhibition of ancient and modern art treasures. In the 19th century the plans finally became concrete. This is how the Altes Museum was built between 1823 and 1830. Karl Friedrich Schinkel (1781-1841) was entrusted with the planning; Alexander von Humboldt was in charge of the commission for the construction of the museum. Today the visitor walks almost reverently through the columned hallway and enters the huge rotunda of the Altes Museum, surrounded by ancient statues of gods. The dome – inspired by the Roman pantheon – puts the visitor in the mood for the extensive collection of antiquities with sculptures, weapons, gold jewelry and silver treasures from Greek art and cultural history. The art and culture of the Etruscans and Romans has been shown on the upper floor since 2010. But the general renovation of the house is still to come. It will be carried out according to the plans of the architects Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht commissioned in 1998.
In principle, 1841 can be considered the year the Museum Island was founded. Until then, there was only the Old Museum, but King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia gave the go-ahead for further buildings with his plan “to convert the entire Spree island behind the museum into a sanctuary for art and science”. This was followed by the New Museum designed by Friedrich August Stüler in the classicism style. It was built from 1843 to 1847 and opened (after several interim openings) in 1859. The bombing raids during World War II turned the Neues Museum into ruins. In 1993 the competition for the renovation and reconstruction was announced, which was finally carried out under the direction of the British architect David Chipperfield. During the reconstruction, Chipperfield left fragments of the original substance in its original state. The New Museum was reopened on October 16, 2009. It houses the Egyptian Museum and the Papyrus Collection as well as the Museum of Prehistory and Early History with objects from Priam’s treasure and parts of the antique collection. Highlights of the exhibition include the bust of Nefertiti, the green head and the Berlin gold hat.