ALTES MUSEUM, MUSEUMSINSEL, BERLIN
The Altes Museum was Berlin’s first museum and the nucleus of the Museum Island. It was built between 1823 and 1830 by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Being one of the most important examples of neo-classical architecture, the Altes Museum was trend-setting well into the 20th century. Narration & photographic reportage of the museum.
The Altes Museum houses the Collection of Classical Antiquities of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin). Some renovation measures have already been undertaken. Complete restoration work, as envisioned in the Museum Island Master Plan, still remains to be done. The architects’ office of Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht was commissioned to plan these restorations.
The Altes Museum can be seen from Unter den Linden. The main entrance to this “temple of the arts” faces directly onto the Lustgarten. Its large outside staircase and the monumental arrangement of columns reveal the particular importance attached by Friedrich Wilhelm III to the presentation of art.
Its wide, inviting portico is an architectural expression of opening the arts to the public. Above the columns, an inscription proclaims the central theme of the Berlin museums, “Studio antiquitatis omnigenae et artium liberalium”: they are dedicated to “the study of the arts and antiquities from all over the world.”
The Altes Museum will be thoroughly renovated based on plans from the architects’ office of Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht (Munich/Berlin), which was commissioned in 1998 to draw up these plans. Complete renovation has not yet begun. However, two urgent preliminary measures have already been taken: renovation of the outside staircase and restoration of the paneled ceiling of the rotunda.
As soon as all the construction work has been completed, the semi-basement will also be used for exhibitions and service facilities. In addition, the plan is to put the two inner courtyards of the Altes Museum into use by providing them with glass roofing. And last but not least, the Archaeological Promenade will connect the Altes Museum to the other buildings on the Museum Island spatially and thematically.
Just as today, the Collection of Classical Antiquities of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin will be presented at the Altes Museum in the future. The newly arranged exhibition of Greek art has been shown on the main floor since 2011. It also features the sculptures from the Collection of Classical Antiquities, which were formerly on show in the Pergamonmuseum. On the upper floor, an exquisite selection of Etruscan and Roman art has been exhibited since 2010.
When the Altes Museum opened in 1830, it was intended for “all collections of art.” The works exhibited came from the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Old Master Paintings, and the Numismatic Collection. From 1904 onward the museum housed only the Collection of Classical Antiquities. From 1966 onward it was used as a museum of contemporary art of the GDR.
In the wake of reunification, the Collection of Classical Antiquities gradually began to move back to the Altes Museum. With the “Antiquarium,” the minor arts collection of the Collection of Classical Antiquities returned to the historical site from their separate locations in Charlottenburg and the Pergamonmuseum in 1998.
Many widely acclaimed special exhibitions have been presented on the upper floor of the Altes Museum. Additionally, the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection including the bust of Nefertiti was exhibited there during an interim period from 2005 to 2009.