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2. National Museum

The main building is closed for reconstruction.

The main museum building is located on the upper end of Wenceslas Square and was built by prominent Czech neo-renaissance architect Josef Schulz and completed in 1890. The entrance to the museum is reached by a ramp that is decorated with allegorical statues.  The rich marble interior of the museum is a very impressive scene.  According to their website, the National Museum at present contains several million items of material concerning the areas of mineralogy, paleontology, mycology, botany, entomology, zoology, anthropology, and also archeology which is mostly concerned with the period from Neolithic times to the 10th century CE.

Among the most valued departments of the museum are:

  • The Department of Prehistory and Protohistory – Contains an extremely rich collection of artifacts which were used daily thousands of years ago.  The curators of this collection were also among the first Czech archeologists: J.L. Pic, curator of one of the collection from 1893-1911 is credited with conducting the first system archeological field exploration in Czechoslovakia.  The department also maintains collections in the field of classical archeology.  However, its main value is in the documentation of Greek and Roman arts and crafts.  Among its most valuable objects are a painted dish of Nikosthenes, a glass bottle from the port of Puteolo, and a gilded silver rhyton.
  • The Department of Classical Archeology – Beginning where protohistory leaves off, this department has assembled a numerous amount of objects which trace the development of Czechoslovakia.  This is done through the acquisition of objects which recall outstanding figures of Czech culture and leadership, in addition to those objects used in times of distress.  Part of the Medieval collection is dedicated to weapons used in the Hussite movement of the 15th century.  In addition to their historical value, many of the objects held by this department contain a high artistic value.  Examples include a silver tiara from the 12th century; Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque jewelry; liturgical objects from the Medieval period, which include the reliquary of St. Eligius in the shape of a mitre; Gothic and Renaissance glazed tiles and paving stones; precious embroidered Rosenberg antependium dating from the second half of the 14th century, and fine Bohemian porcelain and glass from the 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Department of Ethnography – The goal of this department is to gather, in a systemic manner, factual material and data about the history and culture of the people of Czechoslovakia and the other nations of Europe, from the end of the 17th century to the present day.  Much of the focus is placed on Slavic nations.  The oldest ethnographic collections of the National Museum were inherited from the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891, with the result being that much of the focus has shifted to the past half-century, and the collections of the department are filled with simple wood and ceramic objects, which show the gradual shift from a rural society to one that has become increasingly urbanized.
  • Department of Numismatics – Among the oldest departments in the Museum, it was founded through the gift of Count Sternberk.  The focus of this department is to achieve a complete collection of legal tender coins used in past and present day Czechoslovakia.  Also, the department has a great amount of foreign coin collections, the most valuable of these being a collection of coins of classical antiquity.  Along with collecting coins, the department maintains a large collection of medals.  At present, the National Museum contains approximately half a million objects.
  • Department of Theater – Originally part of the National Museum Library, it was set up as a separate entity in 1930.  Its first collections were primarily drawn from the archives of two theaters: the National Theater and the theater Vinohardy.  In the following years, the collections were greatly expanded by the department's founder, Jan Bartos, and his successor, Joseph Knap.  The department today contains extensive exhibits on the history of theater in Czechoslovakia, costume designs by prominent Czech artists, music, memorabilia, and items from the Czech puppet theater.  The collections primarily contain stagecraft items from the middle of the 19th century to the present day, with efforts being made to enlarge the department’s exhibits from the 18th century.