Period IV

Basel, Haus zur Mücke Foto/photo: TES.

Country of Museums

The first museums originated in Renaissance Italy in the fifteenth century. Ancient antiquity, the political and constitutional model of Rome and Greece and the (re)discovery of Greek and Roman authors led to a real hype of collecting among the elite. Antique objects (coins, statues, everyday objects, inscriptions and numerous other artefacts) were there for the taking. The houses and gardens were the showrooms. However, they were private collections.

Pope Sixtus IV (1414-1484), however, saw it as a useful propaganda tool in 1471 to draw attention to the relationship between ancient Rome and Christian Rome with the Pope as its leader. He certainly had no intention of founding a museum; the concept was unknown.

The public viewed the objects in the Capitol in large numbers. The collection in the Capitol was there stay and became the first museum. The next two centuries would be dominated by (religious and civil) wars in Europe. The elites had other things on their minds than museums.

It changed from the second half of the eighteenth century by the Enlightenment and the rise of the nation-state after 1815. The city of Basel had already organised an art collection, the Amerbach-Kabinett in the Haus zur Mücke, for the public in 1671. It was the first public collection north of the Alps.

The exhibition consisted of paintings, drawings and graphic works and continued to expand. It eventually led to the creation of the Art Museum (Kunstmuseum) in 1936. Museum Rath in Geneva is probably the first museum in Switzerland to be qualified as such.