The Militärhistorische Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden consists of two parts: an arsenal that was built in 1877 and a new extension designed by U.S. architect Daniel Libeskind and completed in 2011. Shaped like a wedge, the extension cuts through the old arsenal. The light and shadow effects produced by the new wedge symbolise the eventful military history of Germany. Both the architecture and the permanent exhibition of the Militärhistorische Museum seek to avoid biased presentations and to challenge traditional perspectives. The exhibition confronts the visitor with his or her own potential for aggression and shows violence as a historical, cultural, and anthropological phenomenon. The permanent exhibition encompasses a thematic exhibition in the new extension and a chronological exhibition in the original building. All in all, some 10,000 exhibits are presented in an exhibition area of 13,000 square metres.
The new extension designed by Daniel Libeskind houses a thematic exhibition that starts with a view of Dresden on the fourth floor. It can be explored floor by floor from top to bottom following the stairs in the extension and the historical staircase in the old building. The twelve areas of the thematic exhibition are not presented in chronological order, but instead focus on very different and sometimes surprising aspects of military history. Characteristic features of the new extension are multi-storey shafts, some of which can be crossed by bridges, which contain exhibits associated with individual sections of the exhibition such as "War and Memory", "War and Play", or "Animals and the Military". Some of these areas are designed to help visitors who are not familiar with the military find ways of approaching military history.
A chronological journey through German military history awaits the visitor in the three wings of the old building. This journey comprises three periods: the Late Middle Ages to 1914 (ground floor), the Age of World Wars (first floor, west wing), and 1945 to the Present first floor, east wing). The chronological exhibition starts on the ground floor and ends in the present on the first floor of the old building. Cabinets branch off from the main path and address the military history of particular eras in greater detail. Knowledge chambers shed light on subjects such as the economy of war, the military and society, and injury and death. The path through the ages is marked by ten main showcases that highlight critical turning points in German history: the Thirty Years' War, the beginning and end of World War II, and the division and reunification of Germany.
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