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October 16, 2009

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Nefertiti museum open to public

BERLIN'S Neues Museum, boasting ancient treasures such as a famous bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti and a magnificent Bronze Age golden hat, is finally reopening to the public after standing for decades as a bomb-damaged shell.

The museum will be inaugurated today by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and opens its doors to the public tomorrow. That will mark the first time since World War II that the whole of Berlin's neoclassical Museum Island complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been open.

"It is a special day. Seventy years after it was closed, this building can be handed over to the public again," Hermann Parzinger, the head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which oversees Berlin's museums, said. "It is, in a way, the end of the postwar era for the Museum Island."

The museum's best-known exhibit is the limestone-and-stucco bust of Nefertiti, which dates back to about 1340BC. The graceful, delicately detailed piece was found by German archeologists in 1912 and went on display at the Neues Museum in 1924.

Back at her old home, Nefertiti is the lone centerpiece of a domed corner room - facing down the whole length of the museum to a Roman-era marble statue of the sun god Helios, also from Egypt.

Also given pride of place is the "Berlin golden hat," a tall, conical artifact made of hammered gold and decorated with astronomic symbols. It dates back to about 1000BC.

The museum shut in 1939, and the contents put into storage. Major bomb damage went largely unrepaired by cash-strapped East Germany, and it has taken until now for the exhibits to return.


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