Unless time traveling is made possible anytime soon, the only way that we can “travel” back in time is to step inside a museum. Sure reading books is also a good method but nothing will compare to seeing items that were actually from certain periods in history. And if you want a comprehensive journey to the milestones of mankind all over the world, visiting the oldest museums we have today is imperative. Aside from archeological discoveries, these places will also introduce you to the artists that have made a huge impact in our lives. From paintings to sculptures to other inspiring items, the things you will learn from these museums can rival anything you might possibly pick from a semester of World/Art History.
1. Musei Capitolini
This place is comprised of several museums in art and archeology. The first step in the creation of these museums was taken in 1471 when Pope Sixtus IV donated bronzes of ancient origins to Rome. He placed these artifacts in Capitolini Hill. In 1536, Michelangelo Buonarroti designed a place with three palazzi and a piazza in the middle. This place, housing the museums, took over 400 years to complete. When you visit the Musei Capitolini, you will be able to admire medieval and Renaissance art, ancient Roman statues, coin and jewelry collections, and many others.
2. Musei Vaticani
This is another place where you can not only enjoy 1 museum but several as well. Started in the early part of the 16th century, the Musei Vaticani can be found inside the Vatican City. Its first item was purchased with the direction of Pope Julius II in 1506. The initial collection of items were placed in the Borgia Apartment. Some time after, a building was ordered to be built for the sole purpose of housing the items. As of today, the Musei Vaticani is a group of museums with several sculpture museums and more.
3. Amerbach Cabinet
This was a private collection of curiousities that was purchased by the city of Basel (Switzerland) in 1661. Ten years later, the collection was opened to the public. This event marks the opening of the first and still existing public museum in the world. At the moment, the collection is part of a rich historical and cultural heritage in the city of Basel. This place is a mecca for anyone who loves to take a glimpse into the past via artifacts and works of art.
4. Royal Armouries
This is the oldest museum in the United Kingdom and one of the oldest in the world. This is also the museum that houses the largest collections of arms and armor in the world. Prominent collections are the National Firearms Collection, National Artillery Collection, and the National Collection of Arms and Armour. According to records, the very first visitor to enjoy the display of arms at the Armoury did so in 1545.
5. Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’archéologie
The Museum of Fine Arts and Archeology in Besancon is the oldest public museum in France. Started in 1694, this museum is now famous for its large collections on archeology, paintings, and drawing cabinet. Popular items to check out when you visit are several Egyptian mummies, works of art from notable Italian, French, and Spanish painters, and over 5,500 drawing cabinets collected from European schools.
6. Ashmolean Museum
Located in Oxford, England, this is the oldest university museum in the world. In 1677, it received its first collection, the cabinet of curiosities from Elias Ashmole. The following year, the building for the collection was started. It was finished in 1683. Today, the museum houses an extensive collection of items with artistic and archeological significance. Notable collections and items that you may admire at the museum are biblical manuscripts, drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo, Turner watercolors, a ceremonial dress owned by Lawrence of Arabia, and more.
7. British Museum
Established in 1753, the British museum is one of the oldest museums in the world with the most extensive collection of items from all over the world. Numbering more than 7 million, it is possible to get a glimpse of the whole world and everything it has gone through inside the beautiful buildings of the British Museum. The many departments of the British Museum today are Department of Ancient Egypt and Sudan, Department of Greek and Roman Antiquities, Department of the Middle East, Department of Prints and Drawings, Department of Asia, Department of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Department of Coins and Medals, Department of Prehistory and Europe, Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, and the Libraries and Archives.
8. Uffizi Gallery
Located in Florence, Italy, this museum is not only one of the oldest but also one of the most popular. This museum is famous for its collections and for the building as well. The main courtyard of the museum is long and narrow and opens to the Arno River in one end. At the time it was built (construction ended in 1581), this courtyard design was rather unique. In fact, architectural historians consider the courtyard the very first streetscape in Europe. Popular items in the museums are works of Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, Giotoo, Michelangelo, Duccio, Simone Martini, Fra Filippo Lippi, and Caravaggio.
This houses a collection of items started and gathered by the imperial family of Vienna. The owners of this palace complex, constructed to be a summer house, was Prince Eugene of Savoy. It wasn’t until after his death when the imperial collection was started and eventually opened to the public. The first items were paintings that comprised the ancestors’ gallery of the Habsburg dynasty. This Imperial Picture Gallery was first housed in the Imperial Stables but it was later transfered to the Upper Belvedere. This was in 1776. Five years later, the gallery was opened to the public.
10. Musee du Louvre
Perhaps one of the most popular museums in the world, the Louvre is also one of the largest. And yes, one of the oldest. The building was once a fortress in the late 12th century. It wasn’t until the French Revolution, however, when the place was decreed a museum. It officially opened on the 10th of August, 1793 with the display of 537 paintings. Most of these items were taken from church property all over the nation. Today, there are almost 35,000 items in the museum.