Ever since the opening, in 1830, of Karl Friedrich Schinkel’s Königliches Museum, known today as the Altes Museum, and Friedrich Wilhelm IV’s declaration that the Museumsinsel was to be a ‘sanctuary for art and science’, research has played a crucial role in shaping the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Scholarship and the acquisition of knowledge were firmly anchored in the museums’ first ever statute of 1835.
Today the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin encompasses 15 museum collections, three research institutes (the Rathgen-Forschungslabor, Zentralarchiv, and Institut für Museumsforschung), as well as the Gipsformerei (Replica Workshop). All together, they make up one of the largest ‘universal’ museums in the world. They preserve, display, and publicize art and cultural treasures from throughout human history, from its very beginnings to the immediate present-day. Together, the museums form a giant research institute, where objects, primarily from the collections themselves, but also from elsewhere are studied and analyzed. They disseminate their knowledge and their experience to the public on both a national and international level and are particularly active in the area of university education.
Individual research areas include archaeology, European and non-European ethnology and art history, as well as cross-collection disciplines such as archaeometry, conservation science, provenance research, and interdisciplinary subjects such as visual studies, media studies, and visual anthropology.
At any one time, staff at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are busy working on an array of research projects, either within their own collection, across the SMB’s collections, or with external museums, both within Germany and around the globe. Traditionally, such projects have included world-renowned excavations in the Middle East and Anatolian Peninsula, in Egypt and Sudan, as well as ethnographic field research conducted on all continents. As a result of all this activity, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is the largest non-academic, museum research institution in Germany. Since 1976 it has served as a full member of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, or German Research Foundation) and is now represented at the DFG by the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz that oversees it.
In addition to the current research projects undertaken by the respective collections and institutions as outlined here on our website, the detailed publication Forschung bei den Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, published in 2007 and updated in 2009, gives an exhaustive overview of the diverse research activities at the collection and institution-level.