From pleasure palace to museum

The Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum is among the oldest in Europe. Its opening in the year 1754 was due to Duke Carl I of Brunswick-Lüneburg, a sovereign whose central concern was the growth of prosperity and education in the Duchy of Brunswick.
The Museum is named after a predecessor of Carl I, Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick-Lüneburg, a passionate art collector to whom we owe the core collection of our inventory of high-quality Baroque art.

The opening of the extensive “Herzogliches Kunst- und Naturalienkabinett” by Carl I to the general public was an act of enlightenment, but was at the same time entirely in the tradition of the Baroque aristocracy’s delight in a display of splendor. Thus the purpose of the exhibition of magnificent works by renowned artists or Far Eastern rarities not only served to educate the Duke’s subjects, but sent the message to other German and European territories and states – We are important!

After being relocated several times, the art collections, which were separated from the natural science collections in the 19th century (and are today part of the collections of the Staatliches Naturhistorisches Museum), found a new home in a museum building that was specially built for this purpose. The building, designed by the renowned architect Oskar Sommer, was opened in 1887. About 100 years later, at the beginning of the 21st century, the museum had finally reached its capacity. Its technology was hopelessly out of date, the architectural structure was damaged and the lack of space – alongside the 190,000 works of art and the exhibition rooms for the individual collection, rooms for 40 members of staff were required – made refurbishing and extension inevitable.

In the summer of 2008 the construction of a new functional building in the museum park, directly behind the museum marked the first stage of the extensive expansion and restoration works. After the relocation of the Print Room, the library, the workshops, the depot and the administration into the new annex, the second stage – namely the refurbishment of the Oskar Sommer building – began in 2013. Later fixtures were removed from the old building, which was gutted to the bare brickwork, thoroughly refurbished and equipped with modern exhibition technology. As a result of this renovation, the space for special exhibitions was more than doubled and can now mount temporary exhibitions on an area of 900 m2. In addition to the new, generous and spacious service areas, there is now a museum shop, a 250 m2 room for special events, a 150 m2 space for educational events in the new annex as well as a museum café seating 60 people.

The State of Lower Saxony sponsored the expansion and restoration of this tradition-steeped museum with a total of about 38.2 million euros.