Margrave Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach established his new margravial seat and the surrounding city in 1715. The planned baroque city with the palace at its heart is considered a perfect allegory for the absolutist system of rule.
The rule of the princely House of Baden ended with the defeat of the German Empire in World War I. Grand Duke Friedrich II abdicated on 22 November 1918 and left his residence. The Karlsruhe palace and a part of its inventory were taken over by the state of Baden for the purpose of founding a museum of cultural history.
The palace before World War I
The Badisches Landesmuseum was opened in the historic rooms of the palace in 1919, bringing together three important collections: the Grand Ducal Collection for Archaeology and Ethnology, which had originally been started in the 19th century; the grand ducal private collection, which later became the Zähringen Foundation; and the collections of the Baden Museum of Applied Arts.
View of hall with antique bronzes (photo around 1942)
Since its foundation, the museum has owned collections of that are of importance far beyond the borders of Baden. These collections represent more than 5000 years of cultural history: works from the prehistory and early history of the Upper Rhine region and pre-Hellenistic cultures, an internationally important collection of antique vases and terracotta objects, ancient works of art from Italy and Roman stone monuments.
Zimmerflucht mit mittelalterlichen Skulpturen (vor 1944)
The collections in the castle include important sculpture, ivory carving, glass painting, textiles, furniture, porcelain, metalwork and glasswork dating from the Middle Ages to the present.
The Badisches Landesmuseum is in possession of many extraordinary pieces from the margravial chamber of curiosities. The "Turkish Loot," a collection of Ottoman weapons and handcrafts that was amassed by Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden in the 18th century, is of international significance.
The Turkish spoils of war in the Gartensaal (gardenhall, photo around 1939
In addition, there is an exhibit of historic military and hunting weapons and an outstanding coin collection. Other central collections have to do with the history of the state of Baden through the ages.
During World War II, the Allied bombing of Karlsruhe on 27 September 1944 led to the destruction of the palace and its historic interior rooms. The museum's collections largely escaped ruin because they had earlier been removed from the palace for safe storage.
The palace in ruins following World War II
In May 1955 work was begun to restore the palace as the home of the Badisches Landesmuseum.
The west wing during the rebuilding (the ruins of the theatre are visible in the background)
The restoration work was done in several phases. The first phase of construction, which included the central block, the Gartensaal section and the palace tower, was completed on 29 May 1959, when the museum was able to partly reopen. On 13 June 1966 the completely restored Karlsruhe palace was given over to the Badisches Landesmuseum.
View of the palace after restoration
With the rebuilding of the palace, the historical and architectural centre of Karlsruhe was restored — and so was its cultural focal point when the Badisches Landesmuseum reopened. It immediately earned the highest international recognition.
Before they were destroyed, the rooms of the Karlsruhe palace were laid out in suites typical for the Baroque; in the reconstructed building, which was designed with a museum in mind, wide exhibition spaces are grouped around an elegant central staircase.
View of the Middle Ages exhibition space on the ground floor, around 1965 View of the Classical Antiquities collection, around 1965
Today the Badisches Landesmuseum performs the traditional role of a museum — an institution for the collection, conservation, research and exhibition of objects of cultural historical significance.
Since the beginning of the 1990s, the collections on display have been successively reorganised, which has also allowed the museum's numerous new acquisitions to be integrated into the exhibitions. The new exhibitions present the museum objects in a manner that is lively, educational and pleasing to the eye.
Store selling colonial wares, Sinsheim, Baden, around 1820
The museum has remained a place of education and information, and is a place where everyone can come for an interesting and enjoyable experience. We consider ourselves to be a visitor-friendly and service-oriented institution which focuses on serving the interests of a broad clientele. In 2001, over 330,000 visitors found their way to the Badisches Landesmuseum in Karlsruhe.
We see ourselves as a universal cultural historical museum which features collections and special exhibits that stimulate a dialogue between the regional culture of Baden and the artistic and historical artefacts of the West as a whole. Works of fine art, handcrafts and objects illustrating state history, folklore and everyday life are brought together today in the Badisches Landesmuseum for major cultural historical exhibits that span many genres and that place them in an explanatory context.