National Museum

Národní muzeum (National Museum)

 In the cultural history of the Czech country, the National Museum is one of the most important institutions which participate in the education of the nation.

On the initiative of patriotic aristocrats, a Museum Association was founded in the year 1818. Its members endeavoured to bring Czech culture into the contemporary world fashion. In the tradition of Enlightenment they set up a scientific and collection program.

In essence this meant the examination of the natural sciences. Count Kaspar Sternberg was one of the prominent founders and benefactors. He donated his library and all of his natural-scientific collection. His example was followed by other donators. The collection was kept in different places in Prague. They expanded with the donations of supporters and with purchases of inheritance from renowned personalities. The collection of the well known French palaeontologist and geologist Joachim Barrande was acquired. Barrande was active in Bohemia. They started to publish scientific works and the Museum Magazine was launched. The collections became larger and larger and the Association was forced to look for a new location.

In the year 1882 the city of Prague donated a plot in the Horse Market (Konský trh), todays Václavské námestí (Wenceslas Square). Among the sponsors was, surprisingly enough, the penultimate monarch of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Josef I., who normally did not favour the Czech people. He donated 10 thousand goldpieces for the new building. A neo-renaissance building according to the design of Josef Schulz was erected between the years 1885-1890 at the place of the, so-called, Horse Gate (Konská brána), which used to be a part of the city fortifications. Well-proportioned, the lofty building closed the higer part of Václavské námestí. The front section reaches 70 metres in height above the ramparts. The terrace-like entrance is decorated by a fountain. Within the rectangular building are two courtyards. The front section is crowned with three cupolas. The façade is richly decorated with carving and sculptures. The names of men who served their fatherland are engraved in plaques under the windows. The most famous sculptors and painters of that time participated in the decoration of both the inside and outside of the museum. In the year 1993 the National Museum celebrated the 175th anniversary of its foundation.