I love museums! I said it. I have a problem, surely there is a 12 step program for my infliction and I would hope it would be a full and complete immersion program starting with the “Golden Triangle” in Madrid. With all the museums I’ve had the pleasure to visit, I don’t believe I have ever been in a museum that houses a museum. Let me clarify. Have you walked into a museum only to find a fully erect building inside the building?
Well if you walk into the Pergamon Museum in Berlin you will. During my visit to the Pergamon, the Museum was proudly showing a stand alone 360 degree exhibition titled, Panorama of the Ancient Metropolis. It is quite beautiful to see. The rotunda is set up in front of the Museums main entrance and does require a ticket to enter. As you climb a series of stairs slowly reaching the top viewpoint you can spin around and see an example of what the Ancient Metropolis looked like including aromas and sounds. The Panorama will be on display through September, so don’t delay.
The Pergamon Museum is part of Museum Island in Berlin along with the Altes Museum, Neues Museum, Bode Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie. The Pergamon took 20 years to build, between the years of 1910 -1930, during the building of the museum the world saw the first World War. The museum is divided into several sections, Middle East Museum, Antiquities collection and the museum of Islamic Art.
By the time the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum on Museum Island (today the Bode Museum) had opened, it was clear that the museum was not large enough to host all of the art and archaeological treasures excavated under German supervision. Excavations were underway in Babylon, Uruk, Assur, Miletus, Priene and Egypt, and objects from these sites could not be properly displayed within the existing German museum system. As early as 1907, Wilhelm von Bode, the director of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Wilhelm-Museum had plans to build a new museum nearby to accommodate ancient architecture, German post-antiquity art, and Middle Eastern and Islamic art.
The Pergamon Museum was severely damaged during the air attack on Berlin at the end of the second World War. Many of the display objects were stored in safe places, and some of the large pieces were walled in for protection. In 1945, the Red Army collected all of the loose museum items, either as war booty or, ostensibly, to rescue them from looting and fires then raging in Berlin. Not until 1958 were most of the objects returned to East Germany. Significant parts of the collection remain in Russia. Some are currently stored in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. The return of these items has been arranged in a treaty between Germany and Russia but, is blocked by Russian restitution laws.
The Pergamon houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar, Ishtar Gate and the Market Gate of Miletus, all consisting of parts transported from Turkey. My love of museums is wrapped around the Art that is housed in them, I am lover of Impressionists, Baroque, sculpture and so many other types of Art, but it is Artistic Art. I am rarely impressed with Antiquities. Antiquities are typically Non-Artistic artifacts such as remnants of a civilization. Especially the civilization of the Mediterranean including Greece, Rome and Egypt. Francis Bacon wrote in 1605: “Antiquities are history defaced, or some remnants of history which have casually escaped the shipwreck of time”. I love that line.
This museum is the most visited in Germany and well worth the time to see it. I hope you enjoy some of the photos I’ve taken while there on my visit.
Pergamon Museum, a set on Flickr.