The impressive collection of the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung (Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection) is on display at the Neues Museum. It encompasses masterpieces from different eras of ancient Egypt: from ornate statues, colourful reliefs, exquisite craftwork and delicate papyri to stone sarcophagi weighing several tonnes and examples of monumental Egyptian architecture.
The collection is a testament to the accomplishments of the period between 3000 BCE and the beginnings of the Roman Empire. Perhaps best known for the world-renowned bust of Queen Nefertiti, whose paint work has survived without restoration since the Amarna period, other highlights of the exhibition include a series of exceptional portrait busts of the royal family and members of the court. One of the most important works from the late Egyptian period is the expressive 'Berlin Green Head' named after the colour of its stone.
The Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung provides a comprehensive insight into the continuities and changes that occurred over the course of four millennia in ancient Egyptian and Nubian cultures. The exhibition starts with the history of the collection and of Egyptology itself. Moving from the display of portrait heads of various kings, the exhibition leads to the magnificent Berlin Green Head, illustrating how sculpture progressed as an art form, before coming to the three chambers of offerings dating from the Old Kingdom that bring to life tomb architecture and relief art. The main floor primarily features sculpture in the round. The typological display of private figures is followed by works from the Amarna period including the famous head of Tiy and the world-renowned bust of Nefertiti. The tour through Egypt ends in the Library of Antiquity, containing a selection of texts and literary works taken from the culture of writing that stretches all the way from Ancient Egypt down to late antiquity. The lower-ground level, meanwhile, is dedicated to everyday life, the afterlife and the cult of the gods.
The opening of the Neues Museum marked a key chapter in the history of 19th-century art, museum design, and technology. Designed by Friedrich August Stüler and built from 1843 to 1855, the building suffered severe damage during World War II, after which it was left as an abandoned bombsite. Emergency measures to secure the structure were only taken in the 1980s.
Painstaking restoration work got under way in 2003 and was undertaken by the offices of the British architect David Chipperfield. The building’s façade and interiors were carefully preserved, the scars of the war were not patched over but rather incorporated into the restoration of the landmarked building. What emerged was a restored historical building that is simultaneously a modern museum. Chipperfield thus managed to lend this extraordinary building and former ruin a unique and wholly authentic splendour.
The museum reopened its doors to the public in 2009 and combines geographically and thematically related exhibits pooled together from three separate collections at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin: the collection of Egyptian art from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, of prehistoric objects from the Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte, and of classical antiquities from the Antikensammlung. This joint exhibition featuring exhibits of unparalleled breadth and diversity allows visitors to trace the development of prehistoric and protohistoric cultures, spanning from the Middle East to the Atlantic, from north Africa to Scandinavia.