Museum Island (Berlin)

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Museum Island
UNESCO world heritage UNESCO World Heritage Emblem

Berlin Museum Island TV Tower.jpg
Bode Museum on the northern tip of Museum Island
National territory: GermanyGermany Germany
Type: Culture
Criteria : ii, iv
Surface: 8.6 ha
Reference No .: 896
UNESCO region : Europe and North America
History of enrollment
Enrollment: 1999  (session 23)
Museum Island site plan

The Museum Island is a building ensemble consisting of five museums in the northern part of the Spree Island in the historical center of Berlin . It is one of the most important sights of the German capital and one of the most important museum complexes in Europe . In the years 1830 to 1930 on behalf of the Prussian kings after plans emerged from five architects, it was as in 1999 total investment in the list of UNESCO - World Heritage added. The Museum Island consists of the Old Museum , the New Museum , the Old National Gallery , the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum . Since the reunification of Germany , it has been renovated and expanded as part of the Museum Island master plan . On July 12, 2019, the James-Simon-Galerie opened as a new visitor center.


Map of the Spree Island, around 1652
Map of the Spree island after the fortress was built, 1688
Map of the Spree island after the fortress was demolished, 1710
View of the new museum with the Friedrichsbrücke, around 1850
The Museum Island with the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum , 1951
Panorama of the colonnade on the nightly Museum Island, 2017

The northernmost, orographically lowest section of the Spree island was a swampy floodplain in the Middle Ages . This resulted in peculiarities of the building ground ( scour ). While the town of Cölln emerged on the southern, slightly higher part of the island in the 13th century , the northern part was not used until much later as a garden belonging to the Berlin Palace . In the 17th century the left arm of the Spree was canalized. Today's Kupfergraben was created , which drained the northern part of the island. The Cölln Werder was built between the Spree and the Kupfergraben , on which a pleasure garden was built after the middle of the 17th century .

In the course of its history, the area was subjected to various uses: During the time of the Great Elector and his son Friedrich I , it served as a location for the so-called " Pomeranzenhof " (an orangery for tropical fruits, palm trees and exotic plants), which was used to operate the Lustgarten was indispensable because the precious ornamental trees for the Lustgarten had to be kept there in winter. With the construction of Fortress Berlin 1658–1683, the Kölln city moat was diverted to the Spree within Bastion XIII. After the fortress was demolished, this connection between the Kupfergraben and the Spree was retained as a canal, making the northern part of the Spree island an island in its own right. Under the "soldier king" Friedrich Wilhelm I, the commercial use of the site came to the fore: in 1748, as one of the last remains of the pleasure garden, the orangery house was converted into a packing yard, in which commercial goods and goods were stored. A wooden slewing crane was installed on the quay to lift goods from the ships onto the quay. In 1776 a flour warehouse was built next to the crane system . A salt magazine followed.

This strong commercial orientation of the entire site only gradually gave way to its use as a site for museum buildings in the course of the 19th century: in 1797 King Friedrich Wilhelm II took up the suggestion of the archaeologist and art professor Aloys Hirt to create a museum for the exhibition of ancient and modern times To build art treasures. 1810 was in a cabinet order from King Friedrich Wilhelm III. determined to create "a public, well-chosen art collection". With this order he also served the increasingly louder calls of the educated middle class for publicly accessible art collections.

In 1822, Karl Friedrich Schinkel presented the plans for the new building, which resulted in a comprehensive reorganization of the northern Spree island. In addition to the museum building, Schinkel's development plan also envisaged the construction of several bridges and the straightening of the copper trench. Wilhelm von Humboldt took over the management of the commission for the construction of the museum .

In 1823 the construction of the museum began with the filling of the connecting canal. After seven years of construction, the Old Museum was opened in 1830 as the first building on today's Museum Island. It was also Prussia's first public museum. In 1859 the Royal Prussian Museum (today: Neues Museum ) was opened. In 1876 the Nationalgalerie followed (today: Alte Nationalgalerie ), in 1904 the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum (today: Bode-Museum , renamed in 1956 after the German art historian and long-time director general of the museums, Wilhelm von Bode ), at the tip of the island In 1930 the Pergamon Museum , which has only been designated as such since 1958 , in whose north wing the German Museum , in the east wing the collection of antiquities with the Pergamon Altar and in whose south wing the present-day Vorderasiatisches Museum and present-day Museum of Islamic Art were established. A planned wing at the Kupfergraben for today's Egyptian Museum was not implemented.

It was not until the end of the 1870s that the name Museum Island became generally accepted for the area and thus also demonstrated the Prussian claim to build museums that were comparable to the models in Paris and London . In 1880, at a conference of the museum directors, it was decided that in future only “high art” would be housed on Museum Island, which at that time was limited to art from Europe and the Middle East .

Various expansion projects were intended to create additional exhibition space for the collections, which were constantly in need of space. Alfred Messel was already planning a southern wing extension for his Pergamon Museum, which was to house the Egyptian collection. The numerous technical and financial difficulties in building the museum prevented it from being carried out.

During the National Socialist era , as part of Albert Speer's redesign plans, monumental new buildings were also planned on the Museum Island. The architect Wilhelm Kreis designed four additional huge museum buildings. On the north bank of the Spree, opposite the Bode Museum, a “Germanic Museum”, a “Museum of the 19th Century” and a “Museum of Egyptian and Near Eastern Art” were to be built, which in a later planning phase would become a pure Egyptian museum and as the largest the three buildings would have had up to 75,000 m² of exhibition space. Even Monbijou Castle should have given way to the expansion on the site between Friedrichstrasse , Oranienburger Strasse and Monbijouplatz . Along the copper trench planned circular as an extension of the military-historical collections of the armory a "world war museum." As a counterpart to the new museum buildings on the northern bank of the Spree, the Reich architect of the Hitler Youth , Hanns Dustmann , designed a new ethnological museum on the southern bank of the Spree, which was to extend between the Stadtbahn and the Spree as far as Friedrichstrasse. The war prevented the implementation of all plans.

More than 70 percent of the museums on Museum Island were destroyed in the Second World War . The successive reconstruction of the Museum Island, now in East Berlin , from 1950 onwards did not initially include the most severely damaged New Museum. The ruins of the Neues Museum, known as the eyesore , were even supposed to be demolished for a time, which did not happen due to the lack of suitable alternative accommodation for temporary use . It was not until 1987 that the decision was made to begin the complex safety and renovation measures. A complete repair of the Museum Island was planned before 1990, but could not be started due to the enormous costs.

After German reunification , extensive renovations began on Museum Island in the late 1990s, and in 1999 the Board of Trustees of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation approved the Museum Island master plan . This provides for the renovation of the building stock, the structural consolidation into a museum ensemble and the reorganization of the collections that were divided before 1990.


View from the Berlin TV tower : in the foreground the Museum Island with Berlin Cathedral (left with green dome)
Examination Model Museum Island, situated 16 December 2011 between the Old Museum and Spreearm:
Links Bode Museum (with bubble), the right of the light rail , the Pergamon Museum (U-shaped), right next to the James Simon Gallery , behind the New Museum (with Nefertiti ), directly behind it the Alte Nationalgalerie , to the right of Bodestrasse the Altes Museum with the pleasure garden in front and the Berlin Cathedral , next to it the boulevard Unter den Linden with the Humboldt Forum under construction in the cubature of the Berlin Palace .

The northern tip of Museum Island is crossed by the Monbijou Bridge , which connects the island with both banks of the Spree . The two bridges are closed to public vehicle traffic and form the entrance to the Bode Museum , a triangular neo-baroque building that dominates the north of the Museum Island with its large dome.

To the south of the Bode Museum, the tracks of the Stadtbahn cross the island and at the same time separate the Bode Museum from the Pergamon Museum, which is adjacent to the south . This latest building on Museum Island is also the Berlin museum with the most visitors and also internationally famous for several ancient monumental buildings such as the eponymous Pergamon Altar . The entrance area is formed by a space bounded by the three wings of the building, which can be reached via a pedestrian bridge from the street Am Kupfergraben .

To the south of the Pergamon Museum , the Neues Museum , which remained in ruins for a long time after the Second World War and was reopened in October 2009 after 70 years, and to the east, the Alte Nationalgalerie in the form of an elevated ancient temple with an outside staircase . Above the entrance there is a dominant equestrian statue of Friedrich Wilhelm IV , from whom the first sketches for this building come.

In front of the entrance to the Alte Nationalgalerie there is an open-air area enclosed on three sides by colonnades , the so-called colonnade courtyard . In a three-year construction period, the colonnades were repaired and the open space was redesigned with plants close to the ground, with an extended fountain and bronze sculptures from museum holdings. On June 6, 2010 the facility was opened to the public again.

South of the Neues Museum and the Nationalgalerie, Bodestrasse crosses the island, which is accessible via a bridge over the western arm of the Spree; the subsequent Friedrichsbrücke over the eastern Spreearm is closed to motorized traffic. South of this street in the western part of the island are the Old Museum and the Lustgarten and in the eastern part of the Berlin Cathedral , between which the small street Am Lustgarten connects Bodestrasse with the important traffic axis Unter den Linden - Schloßplatz - Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse . This large street forms a clear southern boundary of the relatively pedestrianized Museum Island.

North of the Berlin Cathedral opposite the Alte Nationalgalerie there is a special spectacle for ornithologists every evening in summer when tens of thousands of starlings fly to their sleeping places in the trees of the chestnut grove there.


New Museum , west facade
Colonnade courtyard in front of the New Museum and the Old National Gallery
Aerial view of the Museum Island

The five museums on Museum Island are all part of the Museum Association of the State Museums in Berlin , which in turn are part of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation . In addition to the Kulturforum in Tiergarten , the area around Charlottenburg Palace and the Museum Center Berlin-Dahlem , the Museum Island is one of the museum centers of Berlin.

The buildings on Museum Island mainly house the archaeological collections and art from the 19th century. After reunification, the merging of the collections, some of which were divided into East and West, began. As part of the Museum Island master plan, a reorganization and joint presentation of the collections of all museums is planned. On July 12, 2019, the James-Simon-Galerie opened as a new visitor center for the entire Museum Island. It also houses event rooms for special exhibitions, an information center, the museum shop, a café and restaurants. The building also serves as access to the Archaeological Promenade , which will connect four of the five island museums.

On the main floor, the Altes Museum shows part of the antique collection with sculptures, weapons, gold jewelry and silver treasures from Greek art and cultural history from the Cycladic culture to the Roman era. The Egyptian Museum was located on the upper floor from August 2005 to 2009 , which until then had been housed in Charlottenburg . The art and culture of the Etruscans and Romans has been shown here since 2010.

The Neues Museum was rebuilt by mid-2009 as part of the Museum Island master plan. Since the reopening on October 16, 2009, it contains the Egyptian Museum and papyrus collection with the famous bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti and other works of art from the time of King Akhenaten . In addition, the exhibitions of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History with finds from the Stone Age , Bronze Age and Iron Age , from Troy with copies of the Schliemann Gold , from Cyprus , the Great Migration and the early Middle Ages and later epochs can be seen.

The three wings of the Pergamon Museum house architectural structures as well as Greek and Roman sculptures from the collection of antiquities , the Middle East Museum with 6000 years of history, art and culture of Middle East and the Museum of Islamic Art with art from the Islamic peoples from the 8th to the 19th century. The Pergamon Museum has become known worldwide through the imposing reconstructions of archaeological building ensembles such as the Pergamon Altar , the Market Gate of Miletus , the Ishtar Gate including the processional street from Babylon and the Mschatta facade . In the fourth wing, which is still to be built, the monuments of the Egyptian Museum , such as the Kalabsha Gate and the pillared hall of King Sahure , as well as the Tell Halaf facade of the Middle East Museum, which is currently being reassembled in an external depot of the State Museums after being destroyed in the war , be visible.

The collection of the Alte Nationalgalerie shows sculptures and paintings from the 19th century, from Caspar David Friedrich to the French Impressionists to frescoes by the Nazarenes working in Rome .

The Bode Museum , which reopened on October 17, 2006, shows Byzantine works of art from the 3rd to the 15th century in the Museum of Byzantine Art , Italian and German sculptures from the early Middle Ages to the 18th century in the Sculpture Collection, and coin series from the beginning in the Münzkabinett coinage in the 7th century BC BC in Asia Minor to the coins and medals of the 21st century as well as selected holdings from the collection of old masters in the Gemäldegalerie .

The number of visitors published annually shows that the bust of Nefertiti moved from the Altes Museum to the reopened Neues Museum. The Neues Museum and the Pergamon Museum were the two most frequented museums in Berlin in 2010.

museum 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
new museum 293,000 1,142,000 903,000 701,000 940,000 633,000 726,000 739,000 777,000 770,000
Pergamon Museum 1,298,000 1,093,000 1,035,000 1,305,000 1,410,000 1,260,000 995,000 750,000 739,000 751,000 780,000
Old National Gallery 240,000 313,000 364,000 305,000 312,000 350,000 339,000 454,000 340,000 316,000 360,000
Old museum 1,080,000 531,000 362,000 330,000 162,000 165,000 206,000 252,000 271,000 253,000 282,000
Bode Museum 282,000 251,000 260,000 390,000 165,000 206,000 226,000 237,000 237,000 233,000 245,000
total 2,900,000 2,481,000 3,163,000 3,233,000 2,750,000 2,921,000 2,399,000 2,419,000 2,326,000 2,330,000 2,487,000

Museum Island master plan


The Museum Island master plan is the result of an architecture competition held in 1993, which was won by the Italian Giorgio Grassi after fierce controversy among the jury . The three-dimensional design by the American architect Frank Gehry , favored by the museum directors , could not prevail. After many revisions, Grassi withdrew from the planning in 1996, and the London architect David Chipperfield was commissioned to restore the Neues Museum and to plan and build a new common reception building for the collections on Museum Island on Kupfergraben in Berlin.

The Museum Island master plan provides for the renovation of all buildings and adapting the building technology to the requirements of modern museums. At the same time, the individual museums are to be structurally combined to form a common museum complex . The models for this are the Louvre in Paris , the Vatican Museums in Rome , the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg and the British Museum in London . For this purpose, a common reception and entrance building is to be built in the area of ​​the Old Packhof, directly southwest of the New Museum. This is to serve as the central starting point for an underground tour, the Archaeological Promenade , which will link all museums on Museum Island except for the Old National Gallery. It should make it easier for visitors to access the individual museums and at the same time offer additional space for overarching exhibitions. However, all buildings on Museum Island will remain as individual buildings with their own entrance.

In 1999, the General Director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Peter-Klaus Schuster , suggested building a new building to complement the collections of the Bode Museum on the grounds of the Engels barracks on Kupfergraben to accommodate the encyclopedic range of Berlin's painting and sculpture collections appropriate to show. He referred to this project as Master Plan II . Due to lack of space, the Bode-Museum cannot show the concept of the planned, integrated display of paintings from the Gemäldegalerie, sculptures and neighboring arts from late antiquity to the Enlightenment in a comprehensive form. According to Schuster, the Bode Museum should encompass everything from late antiquity to a large Renaissance ensemble, and the subsequent era will find its place in the new building. In the case of a new building on Kupfergraben, the building at the Kulturforum, which was inaugurated in 1998 and which today houses the collection of the Gemäldegalerie, will probably be used by the National Gallery , which is in dire need of space , to house the paintings that have been stored in their depots , such as GDR art demonstrate.

In 2001 the President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, added the idea of Masterplan III to bring the museums for ethnology , East Asian and Indian art as well as for European cultures , which had been relocated to Dahlem since the Second World War , back to the city center resided in the 1920s. As part of the new building of the Humboldt Forum with the external design of the former Berlin Palace on the Schlossplatz adjacent to Museum Island, there are now plans to create a cultural center here with the forum as a museum and an "agora" as an event space for representative occasions: According to the plans, in addition to the collections of non-European cultures, it is to accommodate the Berlin Central Library and part of the science history collections of the Humboldt University .

According to the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, the implementation of the three master plans will make Museum Island the world's largest universal museum for world art and world cultures. However, the financing of the new picture gallery and the reconstruction of the city palace is still open, as a budgetary decision by the Bundestag is missing. The cost of building the Humboldt Forum / Berlin Palace was initially given as 670 million euros. In addition to the use of taxpayers' money, both mixed financing from donations and the issue of so-called "lock shares" and (partial) financing by private investors are under discussion. According to plans from 2007, 480 million euros are sufficient for a slimmed-down version, and private investors should be completely dispensed with.

The Alte Nationalgalerie was reopened on December 2, 2001 after extensive renovation. The Bode Museum was also completely restored by the end of 2005 and officially reopened on October 17, 2006, the renovated Neues Museum then followed when it reopened on October 16, 2009. The Altes Museum was completely renovated until 2011 while it was still in operation. The Pergamon Museum has been renovated in sections since 2008 and added a fourth wing in the form of a glass transverse bar on the Kupfergraben. The new James Simon Gallery opened on July 12, 2019. There were lively public discussions in connection with the planning for the picture gallery and a spatial approach to the sculpture collection in the Bode Museum.

The costs for the already completed and planned measures of the Museum Island master plan (excluding the construction of the Humboldt Forum) were originally estimated at around one billion euros, today the total cost is estimated at around 1.5 billion euros: for the Bode Museum around 150 million euros, the New Museum around 295 million euros, the Old Museum around 74 million euros and the Pergamon Museum around 523 million euros. The federal government bears the costs of implementing the master plan.


The Berlin public is mainly discussing the implementation of the first architectural plan from 2001 from the point of view of architectural aesthetics. Criticism is in particular the non-faithful reconstruction of the New Museum and the architectural language of the supplementary building (new entrance building / master plan II ) by David Chipperfield . A citizens' initiative, which began in 2007 to collect signatures for a referendum to prevent the implementation of the first Chipperfield draft, campaigned against this planning variant and for a building in the historical style.

State of construction of the James-Simon-Galerie in October 2016

In November 2006, the budget committee of the Bundestag surprisingly and at short notice released 73 million euros for the construction, so that planning and construction on Museum Island could be completed before 2020. On June 27, 2007, the completely revised design by David Chipperfield's architecture office for the James-Simon-Galerie was presented to the public in Berlin with great interest. The focus of this design is the construction of a circumferential, publicly accessible colonnade and a covered city loggia based on the model of the Acropolis on a high plinth facing the western arm of the Spree. These new buildings are intended to connect all the museums on Berlin's Museum Island and make them accessible from a central point. The general director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Peter-Klaus Schuster , brought this concept into connection with the term “city crown”, which dates back to the 1920s, and with buildings by Alfred Messel and Mies van der Rohe .

Following the publication of the new Chipperfield draft, the citizens 'initiative announced on July 4, 2007 that it would suspend the collection of signatures for the citizens' petition until detailed plans by the architect were available. She suggested that a three-dimensional batter board be erected before construction began in order to examine the golden ratio on a 1: 1 model.


See also


(sorted chronologically)
  • Renate Petras: The buildings of the Museum Island. VEB Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin 1987, ISBN 3-345-00052-0 .
  • Alexis Joachimides et al. (Ed.): Museum productions. On the history of the institution of the art museum. The Berlin museum landscape 1830–1990. Verlag der Kunst, Leipzig 1995, ISBN 3-364-00325-4 .
  • Jürgen Krüger: Berlin and Roman forums. The Museum Island under Friedrich Wilhelm IV. In: Foundation Prussian Palaces and Gardens Berlin-Brandenburg, Yearbook 1 (1995/1996), pp. 37–54. ( Digitized on )
  • Claudia Rückert, Sven Kuhrau (Ed. On behalf of the Richard-Schöne-Gesellschaft für Museumgeschichte): Der Deutschen Kunst. National Gallery and National Identity 1876–1998. Verlag der Kunst, Amsterdam 1998, ISBN 90-5705-093-5 .
  • Carola Wedel (Ed.): The New Museum Island. The myth, the plan, the vision. Nicolai, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-87584-465-3 .
  • Thomas Hensel, Andreas Köstler (ed.): Introduction to art history. Reimer, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-496-01271-4 . (Collection of essays with a focus on Museum Island)
  • Hans Georg Hiller von Gaertringen: Museum Island Berlin. Five houses and their treasures. Published by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and bpk - picture agency for art, culture and history. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin / Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-422-06879-7 .
  • Nikolaus Bernau : Museum Island Berlin. (=  The new architecture guides . Anthology no. 6). Stadtwandel-Verlag, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-937123-64-4 .
  • Kaija Voss: The Museum Island - past and present. In cooperation with bpk - picture agency for art, culture and history . be.bra verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-8148-0186-5 .
  • Michael Eissenhauer , Astrid Bähr, Elisabeth Rochau-Shalem (eds.): Museum Island Berlin. Hirmer, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-7774-4901-2 .
  • Bénédicte Savoy, Philippa Sissis (ed.): The Berlin Museum Island: Impressions of international visitors (1830–1990). An anthology. Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2012, ISBN 978-3-412-20991-9 .
  • Hans Witschurke: Museum of the museums. The history of museums in Berlin as the history of the development of the German art museum . Geymüller Verlag for Architecture, Aachen / Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-943164-138 .

Web links

Commons : Museum Island  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. UNESCO World Heritage Museum Island Berlin. Retrieved July 12, 2019 .
  2. Auf Storchenbeinen - The James-Simon-Galerie opens in 2019. At:
  3. Bernhard Schulz: Opening of the James-Simon-Galerie: Over the stairs into happiness. At: , accessed on July 9, 2019.
  4. Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, visitor numbers 2010 ( Memento from March 11, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs, visitor numbers for 2008 and 2009
  6. Annual press conference 2015
  7. Bernhard Schulz: Opening of the James-Simon-Galerie: Over the stairs into happiness. In: , accessed on July 18, 2019.
  8. Interview with Michael Eissenhauer : Museum boss defends the Museum Island master plan. In: Der Tagesspiegel . January 6, 2014.
  9. ↑ Popular initiative - Jauch and Rosh against new building on Museum Island. With a referendum, opponents want to prevent a new building on Berlin's Museum Island. As the first signatory, the TV presenter Günther Jauch supports the initiative. In: Der Tagesspiegel . February 21, 2007. Retrieved July 9, 2012 .
  10. ↑ Popular initiative "Save the Museum Island"
  11. Christina Tilmann: Pillars to Athens. In: Der Tagesspiegel . June 27, 2007.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 9, 2005 .

Coordinates: 52 ° 31 '14 "  N , 13 ° 23' 51"  E