Altes Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Google Cultural Institute
In 1810, Wilhelm von Humboldt was commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm III "to build up a public, well selected collection of art in Berlin." The year 1830 saw the opening of the Königliches Museum am Lustgarten (Royal Museum at the Pleasure Garden), which had been built in accordance with plans by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. This building added the field of art as a fourth element to the open parallelogram of politics (Schloss, i.e. palace), the military (Zeughaus, i.e. arsenal) and the church (Dom, i.e. cathedral).
The central rotunda harks back to the Pantheon in ancient Rome and, together with the façade of columns, forms one of the most mature works of the classical period, influencing style well into the 20th century. This first museum building in Berlin initially brought together a collection of classical antiquities, a picture gallery and a numismatic collection; in future, this building will be devoted exclusively to classical antiquity.
Near the end of World War II the Altes Museum caught fire and almost burned to the ground. After restoration, from 1966 onward it served as a museum of contemporary art of the DDR (East Germany) and was used for special exhibitions.
The Altes Museum was heavily damaged in the Second World War and rebuilt up to 1966 to house East German art. After the fall of the Berlin wall and reunification, special exhibitions helped it achieve widespread popularity in Berlin's new city centre.
In 1998 the "Antiquarium" - consisting of small artifacts from the Collection of Classical Antiquities - moved from its split locations of Charlottenburg and the upper level of the Pergamonmuseum and was restored to its historical location. Since then, the Greek art has been presented on the main floor of the Altes Museum. As of July 2010 a new permanent exhibition on the upper floor will present an exquisite selection of the rich holdings of Etruscan and Roman art. Subsequently, the Greek art will be combined with the sculptures from the Pergamonmuseum and be presented in a new integrated exhibition from February 2011. For the first time since 1939, the entire building will then be dedicated to the Collection of Classical Antiquities.
The future overall refurbishment based on the plans of Hilmer & Sattler and Albrecht (Munich/Berlin) will connect the Altes Museum spatially and thematically to the other buildings on the Museumsinsel via the Archaeological Promenade. Other key elements of the draft are to gain the elevated ground floor for exhibition purposes and service facilities, and to make the building accessible to the handicapped. The two courtyards are to be made available for use with the addition of a glass roof.
The riches of the Collection of Classical Antiquities, one of the largest in the world for ancient Greek, Etruscan and Roman art, are distributed among three museums on the Berlin Museumsinsel:
Greek and roman architecture in monumental 1:1 reconstructions can be admired in the three central halls of the Pergamonmuseum. They will remain there in future for visitors taking the main circuit to experience. The main focus here is the Great Altar of Pergamon, while in the neighbouring hall with Roman architecture the Market Gate of Miletus is of particular interest.
The Altes Museum, which is the germ cell of the Museumsinsel, presents the heart of the collection distributed over two floors: antique sculptures, vases, terracottas, bronzes, gold and silver jewellery, gemstones, cameos and glass. One of the most extensive collections of Etruscan art and culture outside Italy has been on display again since 2010 after years of storage.
Not least, the Collection of Classical Antiquities has enriched the presentations of the Egyptian Museum and the Museum of Prehistory and Early History, opened in October 2009 in the Neues Museum, with the addition of important archaeological object groups: The main focus here is provided by finds from Cyprus and from the provinces of the Roman Empire. In the central staircase and in the rooms of the Archaelogical Promenade on Level 0, too, there are important items, many of which derive from the major excavations of the collection in Asia Minor (Miletus, Magnesia on the Maeander).