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Staatliche Museen zu Berlin celebrates opening of Archäologisches Zentrum

Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung

Today, 30 October 2012, the new Archäologisches Zentrum (Archaeological Centre) was officially opened in a ceremony attended by Bernd Neumann, Minister of State for Culture and the Media, Peter Funke, Vice President of the DFG (German Research Foundation), Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, and Michael Eissenhauer, Director General of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The Archäologisches Zentrum - a brand-new construction - is situated in the direct vicinity of the Museumsinsel Berlin. Its opening means that all the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin's archaeological facilities and operations are now united under one roof for the first time.

Since the 19th century, the various museums on the Museum Island have been at the very forefront of international archaeological research. Their excavations have shaped archaeological history. Their pioneering work has always collectively advanced a wide variety of disciplines at once, including: ancient Near-Eastern archaeology, Egyptology, classical archaeology, Assyriology, ancient philology, epigraphy (the study of ancient inscriptions) and numismatics (the study of coins). The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin thus looks back on a proud archaeological history and this tradition is now being continued into the future with the Archäologisches Zentrum.

Five archaeological collections of international renown will be able to use the Archäologisches Zentrum as an interdisciplinary platform for their staff, for their research and scientific work, and for their laboratories and research instruments. The five collections are: the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the Collection of Classical Antiquities, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Museum of Prehistory and Early History and the Museum of the Ancient Near East.

The Masterplan Museumsinsel Berlin, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin's long-term development plan for the Museum Island, not only envisages that the archaeological collections be united in the buildings that originally housed them. It also foresees that the study collections, conservation and restoration workshops, libraries, archive and administrative offices are to be gathered in one place, directly beside the Museum Island. That place is the Museumshöfe.

In October 2007 the official go-ahead was given and Harris + Kurrle architects were awarded the contract to plan the centre. The Stuttgart-based architectural office have designed a building that creates the optimal conditions in which to carry out research, documentation, conservation care and restoration of the thousands of artefacts held by the various divisions of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

The Archaeological Library, set up by the Kunstbibliothek, represents a first for the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: for more than 150 years the various museums that comprise the Museum Island have compiled a unique collection of literature on archaeology that has never been accessible to the public in its entirety until now. The holdings, spanning 150,000 items, are now installed in a space covering more than 1000 square metres, systematized in accordance with international library standards and are available for use by researchers from all over the globe.

Also housed in the Archäologisches Zentrum are the Central Archives of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin which hold files, archival collections and personal collections of manuscripts bequeathed to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The archives represent the history of what was once called the 'Royal', now 'National Museums in Berlin' or Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. The Central Archives see themselves as a site of research and learning but also as the home to the 'historical memory' of the museums.