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Berlin's Neues Museum Reopens

October 21, 2009 By: Jena Tesse Fox

Berlin's Neues Museum has finally reopened to the public after 70 years, with a bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti as a central exhibit. The opening is the first time since World War II that all of Berlin's neoclassical Museum Island complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been open to the public.

The museum's most-famous— and most controversial— exhibit is the limestone-and-stucco bust of Nefertiti, which dates to about 1340 B.C. The piece was found by German archeologists in 1912 and went on display at the Neues Museum in 1924. Egyptian authorities want the artifact returned to be the centerpiece of a new museum due to open in Giza in 2012.

The museum was shut down in 1939, and the contents were put into storage. Bomb damage went largely unrepaired by East Germany, and it has taken 70 years for the exhibits to return.

British architect David Chipperfield's $298 million restoration, which was completed in March, incorporates original material that survived wartime bombing and decades of exposure to the weather.

A faux-Egyptian painted ceiling hangs over a room dedicated to the history of Egyptology, while monumental sarcophagi are exhibited below 19th-century murals depicting scenes from the Nile Valley.

Tickets to the museum—with a specific time slot—will cost approximately $15.

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