Situated in the very heart of the city, the Museumsinsel Berlin is one of the country’s major sights, attracting hundreds of thousands of guests from all over the world each year. This unparalleled museum ensemble was the cradle of today’s Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and is where it showcases its magnificent collections of art and cultural artefacts spanning several millennia from Europe and the wider Mediterranean region. In 1999 UNESCO announced that it recognized the Museumsinsel Berlin as a place of world cultural heritage for being 'a unique ensemble of museum buildings illustrating the development of modern museum design over the course of more than a century'.
The initial plans for the construction of the Museumsinsel Berlin were driven by the humanistic ideals of the Enlightenment that prevailed in the early 19th century. Various ‘star’ architects of their day, such as Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Friedrich August Stüler, were instrumental in shaping the island in the river Spree, the city’s historical birthplace and its current urban heart. Their masterworks of Neo-classical architecture continue to lend the Museumsinsel Berlin its unmistakable character. The opening of what is now known as the Altes Museum in 1830 under the reign of Friedrich Wilhelm IV, marked the start of the Museumsinsel Berlin becoming a 'sanctuary of art and science'. Thereafter followed a succession of new buildings: the Neues Museum (1843–1855) the (Alte) Nationalgalerie (1867–1876), the Bode-Museum (1897–1904, known originally as the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum) and finally the Pergamonmuseum (1910–1930).
After the Second World War, the thousands of objects in the collections belonging to the state of Prussia were either strewn over countless sites, many of them unknown, or had been destroyed; the buildings themselves were severely damaged. Following the reunification of Germany, the collections of former East and West Berlin were merged, and work gradually began on the renovation of the museum buildings to meet the demands of modern, visitor-oriented standards, which lie behind today’s 'Masterplan Museumsinsel', which forms the overarching framework for the redesign of the Museumsinsel Berlin as a whole.
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