Complete view of the Museum Island as seen from the south, Promenade highlighted (visualization)

Archaeological Promenade

Establishing Connections

Each of the buildings on the Museum Island Berlin has its own, very individual history. At the same time, all the museum buildings and the collections exhibited in them are related to each other in terms of content. These content-related links will find architectural expression in the Archaeological Promenade which will connect four of the five museums to each other at the basement level of the buildings. It will present the large themes of cultural history, drawing on all the archaeological collections housed on the Museum Island.

The Promenade will extend from the Altes Museum via the Neues Museum and the Pergamonmuseum to the Bode-Museum. In addition, visitors will be able to reach it directly from the new reception building, the James-Simon-Galerie.

Rooms of the Archaeological Promenade

Spatially, the Archaeological Promenade will be located on the basement level which is also referred to as Level 0. Visitors strolling along the promenade will experience an appealing interplay of high-ceilinged, sunlit rooms and lower ceilinged vault rooms. The Archaeological Promenade will connect the Bode-Museum, the Pergamonmuseum, the Neues Museum, and the Altes Museum to each other, and will be directly accessible from the James-Simon-Galerie. In order to create a complete passage between the museums, new subterranean rooms connected to each other will be built between them.

As far as their interior design is concerned, the rooms will reflect the character of the individual museums. This also means that the focus of the objects exhibited will be on the collections housed in the respective buildings. At the same time, the presentations will be complemented by thematically suited exhibits from the other archaeological collections on the Museum Island.

Themes of Humanity as the Underlying Concept

Some large themes have emerged over and over again in the history of humanity, and found expression in cultural and artistic objects at different times and places. The Archaeological Promenade will present these themes in a succession of rooms, drawing on objects from the various collections. In a first concept draft, nine topics were established as the basis of designing the individual showrooms: “Portrait and Conception of the Human Being,” “God and Gods,” “World Order,” “Time and History,” “The Journey to the Afterworld,” “Palace and Hut,” “Ornament and Abstraction,” “Communication and Transport,” and “The Art of Remembering.” Some of these topics are currently being revised because the spatial conditions have changed. According to the overall concept originally drafted in the Museum Island Master Plan, every room was to be used as an exhibition space. The current concept for the Archaeological Promenade has been adapted to the experiences made in those parts that have so far been completed. It has turned out that more attention needs to be paid to the different functions of the rooms. A presentation combining different collections makes only sense in rooms where exhibits and architecture form a thematic whole. Other rooms will mainly serve as public thoroughfares. They will not be used for more complex presentations, because the latter would be hardly perceptible for visitors.

Completed Sections

When the Bode-Museum opened in 2006, the first room of the Archaeological Promenade became accessible to the public. The circular hall, which is situated two floors beneath the Small Cupola, will be the point where the Promenade begins, or ends, in the future.

A further step in concretizing the plans for the Archaeological Promenade was taken when the Neues Museum opened in 2009. The Egyptian and Greek Courtyards in the Neues Museum can be seen as exemplary for the future realization of the Archaeological Promenade.

Egyptian Courtyard

The theme of the Egyptian Courtyard, “Journey to the Afterworld,” is conveyed to the visitors by means of a harmonious overall composition of the exhibition. Large ancient Egyptian granite coffins are complemented by sarcophagi from the Roman imperial period, late antiquity, early Christian times, and the Byzantine era. The images on the reliefs of the objects illustrate diverse ideas pertaining to the hereafter and eternity. A special accent is set by the papyri of the Book of the Dead which are on display on the side walls.

Greek Courtyard

The theme of the Greek Courtyard is epitomized by the Schivelbein Frieze (1849 – 51), which surrounds the courtyard high up on the walls and shows the inhabitants of Pompeii fleeing from the eruption of Vesuvius. Relics of vanished civilizations, such as the medieval stelae of the Turkic Cuman people, are exhibited in the courtyard. Control over chaos is illustrated by the ancient Egyptian reliefs from the pyramid complex of the Temple of Sahu-Rê. The remains of the original plaster from the walls, which are still perforated by World War II shrapnel, call to mind the continuing danger to the orderly world. In the future, the presentation will be guided to an even larger extent by the Schivelbein Frieze and Classical Antiquity.

Historical Connections between the Museums

The idea of connecting the individual museums to each other was part of the plan for the Museum Island from the very beginning. When the Neues Museum was built from 1843 onward, a bridge connecting today’s Bodestrasse was created to the Altes Museum (see picture). Bridges were also built to connect the Pergamonmuseum with its neighboring museums, the Neues Museum and the Bode-Museum. The bridges were largely destroyed during World War II and demolished after the war. When the Museum Island Master Plan was developed, it was decided that the new connection between the buildings should be at the basement level of the museums.