The National Museum is considered to be the most expansive museum institution in Bohemia. It was founded as the „Patriotic Museum“ as in 1818. Initially, its collections were deposited in different noble palaces. The building itself was constructed between 1885 and 1890, after the demolition of the former town gate. It represent the magnificent work of the architect Josef Schulz, who designed the monumental edifice dominating the whole of Wenceslas Square. The National Museum ranks among the most beautiful neo-Renaissance buildings in Prague. In 1840 František Palacký prepared an proposal for a building on the present Smetana Embankment for the Centre of Science and Culture named “Francisceum” in memory of Emperor František I. But it wasn’t until 1876, after another proposal by Fr. L. Rieger, that the City Council presented the extremely prime piece of real estate at the upper corner of Wenceslas Square, formely known as the Horse market, for the new Museum building, above the recently demolished New Horse Gate, with a total area of 13,598 m2. Finally, on 15th November 1883, design of the new Museum building was put out to tender. Six domestic architects were asked in this tender for their participation in the competition.
Decorations Of The Building
The entrance was built as a huge hall, with great sweeping staircases and intricate stonework. In 1888 the nasic construction of the museum was completed but only after being delayed by unusually bad weather. The entire Museum building, finished at the beginning of 1891, still had to be fitted with furnishings and fixtures and its artistic decorations still had to be completed. The interior decorations were completed in 1903. The entrance hall is decorated with statues of Přemysl the Ploughman (Premysl Orac), Libuse, St Wenceslas and Premysl Otakar II created by the well known sculptor Ludwig Schwanthaler. Other works of this famous sculptor decorate the staircase in the central wing of the building.
The Second World War
During the German occupation in the Second World War, ten bronze statues were confiscated and taken from the Museum to the non-ferrous metals store in Na Maninách. Fortunately they were neither damaged nor destroyed but were deposited there till the end of the war and later returned to the Museum. During this war also two bombs were dropped over the National Museum. One of them hit the important central part of the museum, near the staircase. The other bomb damaged a neighbouring house.
The front facade of the museum was also damaged by the Soviet army during the Warsaw Pact intervention in August 1968. The Soviets caused a considerable damage to the main facade with machine-guns and automatic submachine-gun fire.
Collections Of The National Museum
The collections of the National Museum contain about 14 million artifacts of natural history, history, arts, music and librarianship. The museum also administers exhibitions in other prestigious buildings in and outside of Prague. Nowadays the permanent exhibitions in the National Museum include primeval history of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, Zoological collections, Anthropological collections, Palaeontological collections and Mineralogical & petrological collections.
New Building Of The National Museum
In the neighbourhood of the National museum you can see a modern glass building which was constructed here between 1967 and 1972 to the designs of the architect Pragner. It served several different purposes in the past – such as the main seat of the Federal Assembly, the seat of the world headquarters of Radio Free Europe. Nowadays, it houses a additional collections of the National Museum.
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