NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE UNION
The Society for History, Archaeology and Natural Science of the Inferior Alba County was established in 1886. The founding of the Alba Julia Museum (1888) is the work of this society. The first custodian and then director of the museum was the naturalist professor Adalbert Cserni. He became in the same time the first archaeologist who conducted excavations for the research of the ancient Apulum.
In the first decades of its existence, the museum functioned in the buildings of some kinder gardens in the Lipoveni and Maieri neighborhoods. Its patrimony grew constantly, especially by means of donations but due to the excavations campaigns as well. During the First World War, a fruitless period followed, when some important exhibited artefacts were sent to Budapest. Even more, in January 1919, the National Romanian Council sealed the doors of the museum in order to prevent other transports. In 1920, the museum was opened again under Romanian management. The “Astra” society, especially thanks to the Alba Iulia County, developed during the 20s an extensive project for the enlargement of the museum patrimony, considering the history of the Romanian people in particular, lesser visible in the older collection. When the Union Days were celebrated on 1929, Astra received the northern sector of the Coronation Cathedral where the antiquities from the old museum were concentrated and also some documents and important artefacts that were important for the 1918 and 1848 moments. On May the 20th, 1929, within the Union Days, the new museum was opened for the public, under the name of the UNION MUSEUM.
From 1958 the museum received the building of the Army House (the Union Hall), and in 1967 it received the Babylon building as well. On November 28th, 1968, while Nicolae Ceausescu was present for the celebration of the semi centenary of the Union, the new museum complex was inaugurated. A new inauguration, with a new exhibition formula (64 rooms with a continuous circuit) will be conducted on May the 28th, 1975, also in the presence of Nicolae Ceausescu.
The building that hosts the museum was built between 1851 and 1853 and it is named “Babylon”. This name is explained by the fact that until 1918 the officers of the Austro-Hungarian Army lived here; since they came from the different areas of the multinational empire and their ethnicity was quite various, they said that in that officers’ pavilion all the languages of the world were spoken.
The collection of the museum is presently extremely rich and various. The historical periods are represented within the exhibition in a very nice chronological order, from prehistoric times to the dawns of the contemporary era. But the best represented epochs are the Dacian period, the Roman times, the 18th century and the year 1918. Among the pieces de resistence we must mention the trepanned skull from the Bronze Age; the Dacian treasure from Lupu, three splendid Roman marble statues discovered in the last three decades and dedicated to the gods Liber Pater, Nemesis and Hercules; a more than one-hundred-year-old miniature of the thermae (baths) in Apulum that won an international award; a bas-relief presenting Remus and Romulus being fed by a she-wolf; the flute, the coat and the belt of Avram Iancu. The tour is completed with many prehistoric pieces discovered in Alba County area, Dacian weapons and objects discovered in the Piatra Craivii (Apoulon), Capalna or Cugir (Singidava) citadels, very expressive statues and reliefs of some Roman gods, a rich collection of medieval weapons, documents, manuscripts, printings, miniatures of the Alba Iulia citadel, fire arms from the modern period. The tour ends with s rich and spectacular lapidarium where most of the pieces come from the ancient Apulum. The average time for the visit of the three floors exhibition is about 70-80 minutes.
The museum also organizes a great number of temporary exhibitions (around 50 per year), holding a first place among the museums in the country. Their themes are various and beyond the history area.
The most crowded moments for a visit inside the museum, but also the most spectacular, are Night of the Museums (the first Saturday after May the 15th) and December 1st.
Scientific consultant: Tudor Roșu, PhD historian
Translation made by: Ciprian Dobra, PR expert
The National Museum of the Union is hosted by the largest Romantic-style edifice in Alba Iulia which was built between 1851 and 1853. The building used to have a well-defined purpose: to host the Habsburg army in the citadel. Its tenants were recruited from all-over the Habsburg Empire and it is said that all the languages on earth were spoken in this officers’ pavilion; therefore locals called the building – and for good reason – the „Babylon” building.
With its more than one meter high thick walls and with its over 100 rooms, the building has the appearance of a fortress. The safety of its tenants was most likely taken into account as well. The „Babylon” would serve the army after the 1918 Union, except that the military staff had no multiethnic origin anymore, but only Romanian.
It changed its destination only on 28 November 1968, when the National Museum of the Union was inaugurated here. The event took place in the presence of Nicolae Ceausescu, General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party – the most important position in the state at the time. It was fifty years since the Union of Transylvania with Romania.
It is one of the most famous museums in Romania, as heritage and scientific renown. Its collections account for about 200,000 heritage objects. The museum is the place where you can return to prehistoric times, live in the Dacian and Roman times, go through the Middle Ages and „witness” Horea’s Uprising or the World Wars. At least one hour should be allocated for a visit.
In order to pique your interest, just a few of its treasures should be recalled: a bronze age skull with a trepanation hole; the Dacian treasure from Lupu; three splendid Roman marble statuettes discovered over the last three decades – they have been dedicated to the ancient gods Liberty Pater and Nemesis and to Hercules, respectively; a scale model of the Apulum Terme Complex – internationally rewarded and more than a hundred years old; a bas-relief depicting the mythical she-wolf suckling the twins, Romulus and Remus; the whistle, coat and snakes that belonged to Avram Iancu.
The National Museum of the Union occupies a leading place among Romanian museums, both for its permanent and temporary exhibitions (around 50 annually). The most crowded moments for a visit, but also the most spectacular, are the Night of Museums, and Romania’s National Day (1 December).