The Bode-Museum was erected to pay tribute to Emperor Friedrich III (whose reign lasted only 99 days) and was commissioned by his son Emperor Wilhelm II. It was a challenge for architect Ernst von Ihne to build on the tip of the island, which was isolated by the elevated railway. Although the museum’s triangular footprint made optimal use of the available space, it continues to cause some disorientation to this day. One of the Bode-Museum’s architectural highlights is the Münzkabinett’s nearly sixty-metre long vault in the building’s basement. After the museum opened, it soon became apparent that the new building was much too small to do justice to the collections.
Following the Second World War, Germany and Berlin were divided into four occupation zones, with the two German states – the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) – subsequently being founded in 1949. The division of Germany meant not only the division of Berlin but also the division of the Berlin museums. From then on, the holdings of the Skulpturensammlung and the Museum für Byzantinische Kunst were housed partly in the Bode-Museum in East Berlin and partly in the Bruno-Paul-Bau (Bruno Paul Building) in West Berlin’s Dahlem district, depending on where they had been stored during the war. It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that it became possible to begin merging the collections in the 1990s. After more than forty-five years of their separation, the goal continued to be not only to reunite the collections, objects and research activities, but to also bring together the staff from East and West. An exception was the Münzkabinett, which had remained in the Bode-Museum even during the division of Germany. Its library is still located in Russia.
By the end of the Second Wold War, the museum building had suffered severe damage. In the following period it was provisionally repaired. These measures, however, could not prevent considerable damage to the entire building caused by years of dampness. After German Reunification an extensive renovation (PDF, 237 KB) of the Bode-Museum was carried out from 1998 to 2006, with the ceilings and floors being accurately reconstructed in keeping with the historical building. Starting in the 1990s, plans were made to to merge (PDF, 237 KB) the Gemäldegalerie and the Skulpturensammlung, but they failed to materialise. The Gemäldegalerie is still located at the Kulturforum, although 200 of its paintings have been integrated into the Bode-Museum’s permanent exhibition.