The Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) in Nuremberg is the largest museum of cultural history in the German-speaking countries and counts among the most important museums of the world.
The museum exists since 1852, when the Franconian nobleman and antiquarian Hans Freiherr von und zu Aufseß (1801-8172) was instrumental for bringing about its foundation. He intended to gather a "well-ordered general repertory of the complete source material concerned with German history, literature and art". Against the background of the unsuccessful political unification of the German states in the year 1848, the unity of the "Germanic", i. e. German-speaking cultural sphere, was thus supposed to be documented. With the foundation of the Deutsches Reich (German Empire) 1871, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum became the official national museum of German art and culture.
The range of collections stretches from prehistory to contemporary art and culture. The visitor experiences a journey through the centuries: among the highlights are stone-age hand-axes, the mysterious golden cone of Ezelsdorf-Buch dating to the Bronze Age, the precious mediaeval cover of the Codex Aureus, sculptures by Veit Stoß (d. 1533) and masterworks by Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).
In addition, the museum displays the so-called Behaim-Globe, the oldest preserved globe of the world, as well as astrolabes, armour and weapons. Moreover, it contains one of the most important collections of musical instruments in Europe and rare Baroque dolls' houses among its collections of toys. The comprehensive presentation is rounded off by examples of Expressionist painting and of classical design from the Bauhaus style to the twenty-first century. Several special exhibitions every year complement and enlarge upon selected topics in the fields of history of art and culture.
The architectural nucleus of today's museum complex is provided by the late-Mediaeval Carthusian monastery with its historical cloister, the monastic church and the monks' houses. Since the destructions at the end of WWII, the architect Sep Ruf (1908-1982) added new parts to the building during the 1950s and 60s, which still determine its exterior appearance. In 1993, a new, modern entrance area was built, including the present main entrance and Dani Karavan's (b. 1930) exterior installation "Straße der Menschenrechte" (Street of Human Rights).
The Germanisches Nationalmuseum is, therefore, much more than a mere place of display. Apart from the diverse departments of collectibles, the museum hosts a historical archive, the Deutsches Kunstarchiv (German art archive), a coin cabinet and a print room. The special academic library is open to all users and holds over 650,000 scholarly works with a focus on European art and cultural history. The museum is a member of the Leibniz-Gemeinschaft (WGL, Leibniz-association) and thus part of a society of non-university research institutions of academic importance.