The Pergamon Museum is situated on the Museum Island in Berlin. The site was designed by Alfred Messel and Ludwig Hoffmann and was constructed in twenty years, from 1910 to 1930. The Pergamon Museum houses original-sized, reconstructed monumental buildings such as the Pergamon Altar and the Market Gate of Miletus, all consisting of parts transported from Turkey.
The museum is subdivided into the antiquity collection, the Middle East museum, and the museum of Islamic art. The museum is visited by approximately 1,135,000 people every year, making it the most visited art museum in Germany (2007), and is one of the largest in the country.
By the time the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum on Museum Island (today the Bodemuseum) had opened in 1904, it was clear that the museum was not large enough to host all of the art and archaeological treasures excavated under German supervision. Excavations were underway in Babylon, Uruk, Assur, Miletus, Priene and Egypt, and objects from these sites could not be properly displayed within the existing German museum system. As early as 1907, Wilhelm von Bode, the director of the Kaiser-Friedrich-Wilhelm-Museum had plans to build a new museum nearby to accommodate ancient architecture, German post-antiquity art, and Middle Eastern and Islamic art.
This large three-wing museum had been in planning since 1907; when Alfred Messel died in 1909 his close friend Ludwig Hoffman took charge of construction, which began in 1910. The construction continued during the First World War (1918) and the great inflation of the 1920s. In 1930, the building hosting the four museums opened.
The Pergamon Museum was severely damaged during the air attack on Berlin at the end of the Second World War. Many of the display objects were stored in safe places, and some of the large pieces were walled in for protection. In 1945, the Red Army collected all of the loose museum items, either as war booty or, ostensibly, to rescue them from looting and fires then raging in Berlin. Not until 1958 were most of the objects returned to East Germany. Significant parts of the collection remain in Russia. Some are currently stored in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg. The return of these items has been arranged in a treaty between Germany and Russia but, as of June 2003, is blocked by Russian restitution laws.