There have not been any significant repairs made since the opening of the building. It was also damaged by two military attacks in 1945 and 1968. If we had not started with a renovation of this extraordinary building as soon as possible, there would have been a threat it would have to be closed due to security reasons. So the aim of the demanding reconstruction is to save such significant national cultural heritage and to transform it into a modern museum space.
The purpose of the ambitious reconstruction is to save this important national cultural monument and transform it into a modern museum space.
With the vacated space in the Historical Building and its connection with the New Building, the National Museum will double its exhibition area in the centre of Prague, enabling visitors to admire numerous unique exhibits which have been hidden in depositories till now.
The Historical Building of the National Museum closed to the public on 8 July 2011 due to poor technical conditions and to enable preparations for the reconstruction.
The Historical Building will be partially open on 28 October 2018. Its opening will be accompanied by two new exhibitions: one commemorating the 100th anniversary of the foundation of Czechoslovakia and another prepared for the occasion of the National Museum 200th anniversary. Permanent exhibitions will be opened to visitors within the following two years.
The reconstruction of the Historical Building of the National Museum has been called for by several generations of museologists, but the decision was made only on 7 June 2006, when the cabinet, led by Jiří Paroubek, granted the necessary financial resources. Preparatory works started immediately. Millions of collection items had to be moved out of the building, and museum employees were transferred to alternate workplaces. However, first of all it was necessary to carefully prepare the reconstruction project – to finish the required surveys and carry out technical inspections and studies. In 2011, the project was ready to receive a building permit. It was then that the first delay occurred, when the Ministry of Culture decided to reduce the financial resources and charged the National Museum with the task of changing the project. In 2013 the National Museum was ready to invite tenders for the contractor of the general reconstruction. However, the Museum had to wait for the tender conditions to be approved by the government. The assessment commission was not set up until 13 November 2013. The commission began working immediately, and on 18 November the envelopes containing the bids were opened. The commission finished its work in October 2014 by choosing the most favourable bid, but the National Museum faced several administrative procedures led by the Office for the Protection of Competition and initiated by unsuccessful tenderers. All those procedures were eventually concluded in favour of the National Museum, and a contract was finally signed on 15 April 2015 with the winning consortium, Sdružení M-P-I Národní museum, consisting of three companies: Metrostav, Průmstav and Imos Brno. On Monday 20 April 2015 the building was handed over to the contractor.
According to the original plan, the reconstruction was to take 42 months. Work started with a technical inspection (documentation of the building condition) and the protection of artistic items, followed by construction and restoration work. As specified in the contract, the reconstruction was to be completed by October 2018, i.e. in the year of the 200th anniversary of the museum’s establishment, but unforeseeable circumstances occurred during the process which significantly affected its smooth execution. In particular, archaeological finds from the eastern courtyard of the Historical Building and a change of geological conditions during digging and the laying of the foundations for a walkway were the reasons for a minor rescheduling of the completion of the reconstruction, now planned for February 2019. Despite this short delay, the National Museum has succeeded in its plan to reopen this building, with its huge architectonic, artistic and historical significance, to the public before the end of 2018. The Historical Building will symbolically open to visitors on the day of the 100th anniversary of the foundation of independent Czechoslovakia. The National Museum has prepared the first two exhibitions in the reconstructed building, entitled Czech-Slovak / Slovak-Czech and 2 x 100, which will open to the public on 28 October 2018. With these two exhibitions, at least a part of the Historical Building of the National Museum will open up to the public. Permanent exhibitions will be opened within the next two years.
The architectural design competition for exhibitions, exhibition areas and visitor facilities in the Historical Building of the National Museum was announced in July 2015, and it concluded in June 2016. Twenty-five competitors participated in the first round of the competition, six of whom were selected for the second round. The results were announced on 24 June 2016. However, for legislative reasons the competition was cancelled, through a ruling of the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) which came into force on 31 May 2017. As the ÚOHS explained, the reason for the cancellation was a breach of the law regarding competition conditions, or more precisely the Competition Rules of the Czech Chamber of Architects - not the client’s steps in assessing and evaluating individual bids.
Thus, new exhibitions were divided into smaller thematic groups, and several architects and studios, mostly participants of the first architectural design competition, were approached about their architectural representation. The National Museum is preparing its new permanent exhibitions in cooperation with seven architectural studios. In 2018, contracts with all the architects were concluded. As of November 2019, visitors to the Historical Building of the National Museum will have an opportunity to see exhibitions entitled ‘Nature’ and ‘Miracles of Evolution’. At the same time, two more exhibitions, ‘History of the 20th Century’ and ‘Children’s Museum’, will open in the New Building of the National Museum. The walkway, which will also be opened in 2019, forms a separate exhibition space. The remaining new permanent exhibitions will open in June 2020: History; People: Man, Society and Culture in the Past; and Treasury and the Coin Cabinet in the Historical Building.
Natural history exhibitions will be realised by three architects – Daniel Kříž, Jan Albrecht and Renata Slámková. Architectural designs of individual exhibitions will be prepared by Lukáš Brom (History), Petr Janda (People), Ondřek Busta (Treasury), Daniel Dvořák (History of the 20th Century) and Martin Hejl (the Walkway and its multimedia character).
Besides the museum exhibitions, the project also includes resting places, spaces for school groups, an area for prams, playrooms, a café, and a souvenir shop. The whole building will be wheelchair accessible.
Take a walk with us through the reconstructed Historical Building of the National Museum:
From the entrance hall visitors will walk down to the basement and its newly-built visitor facilities area with cloakrooms and toilets. The ground floor will contain a café, a museum shop and a playroom in the covered courtyard on the left.
The covered courtyard on the right will be used for expositions. The ground floor will further include five exhibition halls for temporary exhibitions and reopened lecture halls.
The Pantheon on the first floor will commemorate important men and women of Czech science, society and art, as it did before the reconstruction. The remaining exhibition halls will offer permanent exhibitions, and there will be an interactive centre for students and young visitors on the second floor. At the end of the tour, visitors will be able to ascend into the dome which offers a panoramic view of the historical city centre and Prague Castle.
New lifts to the second underground floor will take visitors to the walkway leading to the neighbouring New Building of the National Museum, with further permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The reconstruction project has been prepared by Sdružení Národní museum (the National Museum Consortium), consisting of VPÚ DECO Praha, a. s., and SUDOP Praha, a. s.; with Ing. arch. Zdeněk Žilka as the chief architect.
The reconstruction has been carried out by Sdružení M-P-I Národní museum (the M-P-I National Museum Consortium), consisting of Metrostav, Průmstav and Imos Brno, which won the tender with a price of CZK 1,636,365,865.51 (incl. VAT).
A separate budget of CZK 483 million is appropriated for the new exhibitions.