Housed by the Brukenthal Palace at Sibiu, the Brukenthal Museum is the first Romanian museum and also the oldest museum in Central and Eastern Europe. It gathers together over 15000 exhibits of great value.
Baron Samuel von Brukenthal (1721-1803) was the only representative of the Transylvanian Saxon community who acceded to high public office in the Austrian Empire under the Empress Maria Theresia (1717 – 1780), the first such office being that of Chancellor of Transylvania. The years spent in Vienna, in this capacity, were the years when the Baron started acquiring his collection of paintings, mentioned in Almanach de Vienne (1773) as being one of the most valuable private collections and generally admired by the cultivated Vienna public of the time.
Baron’s initial collections (comprising the collection of paintings, a collection of prints, a library and a coin collection) were mostly put together in the period between 1759 and 1774. We have scant information as to how they came into being, the earliest records in the Brukenthal family being the archive concerning acquisition of paintings dating from 1770 (by which time the core of the collection of paintings must have been acquired). Appointed Governor of the Principality of Transylvania, a position that he occupied between 1777 and 1787, Samuel von Brukenthal built a Late Baroque palace in Sibiu, modeled on the palaces in the imperial capital.
Since the baron and his wife had a daughter as the only child (who died at the early age of four) his testamentary dispositions stipulated that, on the death of the last heir in the male line of succession, the entire inheritance was to be placed in the custody of the Evangelical Church of Sibiu while the palace presenting his collections to be open for the public, event that happened in the year 1817.
During the 19th century, the main concern of the Museum was to preserve the extant patrimony, to enlarge the main collections through the means of acquisitions and to establish new collections, especially in the range of the German-Saxon Culture.
In the year 1948, the Museum was nationalized, becoming the property of the communist Romanian state.
In 1948, the Transylvanian Society for the Natural Sciences in Sibiu ceased its activity, the museum under its patronage being included in the national patrimony. In 1957, the Museum of Natural Sciences became a part of the Brukenthal Museum.
The “August von Spiess” Museum of Hunting has its opening in 1966. 1972 is the opening year to the Museum of Pharmacy. In 1988 was inaugurated the History Section of the Brukenthal National Museum, at present the Museum of History, in the Altemberger House. The Contemporary Art Gallery of the Brukenthal National Museum is the most recently acquired location (2006). (From Brukenthal Museum)