The concept of the museum, which was originally called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, can be traced back to Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, who published her ideas in a memorandum in 1883. It was Wilhelm von Bode who finally put these ground-breaking ideas into practice.
In 1897, construction work began at the northern tip of the Museum Island on a museum that was to be devoted to the Renaissance, designed by Eberhard von Ihne.
Once completed, the museum would bear the name of Empress Victoria’s deceased husband, Kaiser (Emperor) Friedrich, who died in 1888. When the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum opened in 1904, painting and sculpture, considered at the time as the ‘high arts’, were for the first time presented side by side on an equal footing with each other -- a presentation strategy that differed radically from that of traditional museums.
The building was badly damaged in the Second World War and underwent several stages of restoration between 1948 and 1986. In 1956 it was renamed the Bode-Museum after its first director and spiritual founder. German reunification also brought with it the merging of the previously separated collections under the auspices of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, with the decision soon being taken for the museum to undergo an extensive overhaul to bring it up to date with modern museum and conservation requirements.
After extensive renovation work, the museum building reopened to the public in autumn 2006. Contrary to the original concept, it now principally houses the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art. The display of sculptures is enriched by some 150 works from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie, which has been located at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz since 1998. With its collection of coins and medals, the Münzkabinett is also housed at the Bode-Museum, where it presents its chronicle of human history forged in metal.