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Visitors to the Altes and Neues Museum in Berlin 1830–1880

This DFG project, which has been conducted by Elsa van Wezel at the Institut für Museumsforschung since 2013, examines the visits to the first two art museums built in Berlin, the Altes Museum (1822–1830) and the Neues Museum (1841–1859), in their original configurations.

This monographic project on historical visitors focuses on the period between the opening of the Altes Museum in 1830 and the 1880s, when the first major changes were made to the original concept of the museums, with the arts and crafts, prehistoric, and ethnographic collections being removed from the Neues Museum to create dedicated collections. Previous studies have shown that the directors of the Altes and Neues Museum believed strongly in the edifying function of their displays. The project aims to systematically examine these moral claims by discussing the ways in which the museums addressed their audiences and how the public actually responded to these original museum arrangements.

Recognising changes in the make-up of museum audiences and developing impact analyses of the museums’ educational and media output is one of the current tasks of visitor research at the IfM. Therefore, it is important to get a more realistic picture of the visitors of earlier epochs, since these findings can add an enriching historical perspective to the current debate. Furthermore, historical comparison not only allows us to put today’s work into perspective, but also offers the chance to reflect upon it and, if necessary, make improvements.

The first volume of research outcomes on this issue was released in September 2018:


Research Team: Institut für Museumsforschung: Dr. Elsa van Wezel
Funded: DFG
Duration: 2013 to 2016; 2017 to 2019