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Culture

Berlin Reveals Cultural Gem

After years of painstaking restoration, Berlin's Bode Museum is gearing up to reopen its doors to visitors. It's the second of the five architectural gems on the city's Museum Island to be given a complete facelift.

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Visitors can soon get a sneak preview of the fruits of hard labor

"This is a wonderful day for Berlin, a wonderful day for Germany and for the museums of the world," were the words spoken by art-lover and new Minister for Transport, Building and Housing Wolfgang Tiefensee at the official reopening ceremony for the Bode Museum.

He made no effort to disguise his delight at the nature of his first public engagement since taking office. The restoration project, which was completed within the 152 million euros ($178 million) budget and in the foreseen five and a half years time frame, brings the Museum Island in central Berlin one step closer to its former dazzling glory.

Das Foto zeigt einen Teil des renovierten Bode Muesums am Montag, 28. November 2005 in Berlin.

After years of reconstruction, the museum is ready again

Tiefensee was not the only one singing the museum's praises during the ceremony. Klaus-Dieter Lehmann, head of the Foundation of Prussian Cultural Heritage was positively effervescent in his description of what makes the restored building so stunning, citing "the impressive renaissance and baroque forms, original features and use of colors and materials."

A fragmented past

From its place at the northern-most tip of the Museum Island where it sits perched imposingly above the Spree River, the Bode Museum looks every bit a water palace. The original building project, inspired by Wilhelm Bode, then general director of the royal museums of Prussia, stems from 1880. The neo-baroque beauty with its twin cupolas was built by royal court architect Ernst-Eberhard Ihne and opened by Prussian King William II as the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum in 1904.

Much of the museum was destroyed during the Second World War, and had, by the end of the 1940s been earmarked for complete demolition. An active citizens' movement managed to prevent its fate from being sealed in a pile of rubble, and between the beginning of the 1950s to the mid-1980s, the building, which was renamed Bode Museum in 1956, underwent a patchwork restoration effort. But it wasn't until after the fall of the Berlin Wall that it got the full treatment.

Museumsinsel mit Bodemuseum und Pergamonmuseum

The museum was built in the late 19th century

When the Museum Island was granted a place on the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites, the federal and state governments hatched a master plan worth billions to completely renovate the five buildings on the slim strip of land positioned in the middle of the Spree River. Speaking at the official opening this week, State Secretary for Culture Bernd Neumann said it was an "essential and pleasurable task" to maintain and hand on the restored complex to the next generation.

Attention to detail

The complete overhaul of the 25,000-square-meter (82,000-square-foot) building not only included fitting modern security and sanitary technology, but restoration of the detail which lent the museum its charm 100 years ago. Many décor elements which were damaged or destroyed during the war have been redone or replaced, and an ornate rococo room was completely reconstructed on the strength of an old photo from pre-war days.

In the coming months, the high, bright rooms will be filled with exhibits from the end of antiquity to the middle of the 18th century. From sculptures to icons and ivory to works by the old masters, the museum will house pieces of art which have been hidden away for long enough. Visitors will have a chance to preview the museum over the weekend, and it will be opened permanently from summer 2006.

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