Profile of the Rathgen-Forschungslabor

The diverse and distinguished activities of the Rathgen-Forschungslabor (Rathgen Research Laboratory) are a credit to our staff’s unique competencies. Our work has also grown out of a close cooperation with the collections and institutes of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

At the laboratory, chemists, physicists, biologists, mineralogists, geologists and conservation scientists work collaboratively on interdisciplinary projects in the field of cultural heritage research. Our overarching objective is to understand and preserve our cultural heritage as a limitless resource of knowledge. As a purely scientific institute at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Rathgen-Forschungslabor seeks to meaningfully contribute to this vision.

About the institute

The Rathgen-Forschungslabor is believed to be the oldest museum laboratory in the world. It was founded in 1888 as the Chemistry Laboratory of the Königliche Museen zu Berlin and was later renamed in honour of its first director Friedrich Rathgen, a chemist who specialised in the conservation and analysis of historical objects.

As the scientific arm of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Rathgen-Forschungslabor provides support and advice on issues related to conservation, art technology and archaeometry. It offers its services not only to the museums in Berlin but also to institutions and organisations across the globe. The laboratory investigates museum objects and materials of all kinds, and conducts research on the preservation of historical monuments and archaeological sites.

As the main point of contact for conservation science at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Rathgen-Forschungslabor is responsible for fundraising and conducting long-term research projects. It also provides services based on its theoretical and methodological expertise to its partners and clients within the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (the body that oversees the Staatliche Museen) and beyond.

Thanks to the many competencies at the disposal of the Rathgen-Forschungslabor, the institute has always been well-connected to both national and international research networks. Some noteworthy collaborations include the recently established Archäometrie-Netzwerk Berlin-Brandenburg of the Berliner Antike Kolleg, the Forschungsallianz Kulturerbe (together with the Leibniz-Gesellschaft and the Fraunhofer-Institut), and the Europäische Infrastruktur IPERION-CH (2015-19), which recently received funding to create a permanent research infrastructure as part of the ESFRI Initiative European Research Infrastructure for Heritage Science (E-RIHS). The Rathgen-Forschungslabor also makes its expertise available to international bodies such as ICOMOS, ICOM-CC and ICCROM.