New German museum Humboldt Forum opens to visitors

Photo: EPA A giant sculpture at the exhibition Berlin Global.

The newest Berlin museum, Humboldt Forum, was officially opened to the public with a special ceremony on 20 July. After years of delays, the last one caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, the new museum on the banks of the Spree River, between Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz, is now welcoming visitors, albeit through prior appointments because of the pandemic restrictions.

Federal Commissioner for Culture Monika Grütters, Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller and General Manager and Chairman of the Humboldt Forum Foundation Hartmut Dorgerloh cut the ribbon at the official opening.

The Humboldt Forum of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation was supposed to open doors in 2019 in time for the 250th anniversary since the birth of explorer Alexander von Humboldt. The ceremony was postponed multiple times, however, due to delays in the reconstruction of the Berlin City Palace (Berliner Stadtschloss), which hosts the museum. In 2002, the Federal Republic of Germany made the decision to build the cultural complex.

The coronavirus pandemic contributed to the delays. Due to the lockdown measures, many foreign construction workers were unable to enter Germany. Deliveries of materials were also disrupted.

A virtual opening of the museum was held in December.

Humboldt Forum is the most expensive cultural project in Germany - an investment of over €640m funded by the federal government, the municipality of Berlin and private donations. Exhibitions from Asia, Africa, America and Oceania will be arranged across 40,000 sqm of exhibition space. The palace reconstruction was designed by architect Franco Stella. The building is marked by a juxtaposition of contemporary elements and the three reconstructed Baroque façades of the Berlin palace, which was damaged in 1945 and then demolished in 1950. The parliament of the German Democratic Republic was built in its place, before it also got destroyed in 2008.

Since its construction in the 18th century, the palace, which was originally designed by sculptor and architect Andreas Schlüter, has been widely viewed by experts as one of the most significant secular buildings north of the Alps dating back to the Baroque period. Italian architect Stella's interpretation brings together the traditional and the modern, alluding to the idea of bridging differences - a central idea in the Humboldt Forum programme, the museum's press office notes.

After the ceremony, the exhibitions on the first and second floors of the five-storey building, which rises on a key historic site at the heart of Berlin adjacent to Museum Island - famous among art lovers - were opened for visits yesterday.

On the first floor is the permanent exhibition Berlin Global, which explores how the city and its inhabitants are connected to the world. Next-door is the Humboldt Lab, which is part of the Humboldt University of Berlin. It presents a research and concept centre where seminars, discussions and classes will be held.

Artefacts with over 800 years of history are on display in the Palace Cellar. On the second floor, and later on the third floor, will be displayed the collections of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, which contain historical objects and artefacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania, North and South America.

From Tuesday, the visitors will have access to five expositions, and virtual visits also remain an option. The first 100 days after the opening, admission will be free to the museum and exhibitions, and tickets will be on sale from 13 November. However, it is necessary to arrange a visit in advance due to the need for social distancing. The museum staff advises the public to foresee the duration of visits in view of the time required for each of the five exhibitions.

The Terrible Beauty exhibition will take about an hour and a half, recommend from Humboldt Forum. The exhibition traces the history of ivory, intertwined with human history as far back as 40,000 years ago. It can be seen until 28 November, and after 13 November the ticket price for it will be €12.

When, where, why and how do we sit? How do we express our conventions, status, or welcoming gestures? And who actually takes which place in groups and societies? Answers to these questions for children aged three to ten are offered by the exhibition Have a Seat! It is also recommended to plan 90 minutes for seeing it.

Traces of history from the Middle Ages to the present can be traced in the cellars of the former Berlin Palace, where parts of a medieval Dominican monastery are exhibited presenting the foundations of the palace. It is good to allow at least half an hour for the cellar.

The past, present and future of Berlin as part of the world is the subject of the Berlin Global exhibition spread over an area of 4,000 sq m on the first floor of the Humboldt Forum.

What do climate change and the loss of biodiversity have to do with the worldwide crisis of democracy? The Humboldt Lab marks the beginning of its activity with the exhibition After Nature for which the curators recommend visitors to spend at least an hour.

The electronic booking system gives the option for booking 14 days before the scheduled day of the visit, announce from the museum.

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