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10 Of The Oldest Museums In The World (& Where To See Them)

Technically, the oldest known museum was created over 2,500 years ago. A Babylonian princess saw the importance of not only preserving art and artifacts for the future but also of exhibiting them to the local public so they could see the evidence left behind of those who came before them.

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While this museum is no longer a place where you can visit and learn from its exhibits, there are 10 of the oldest museums in the world that still open their doors each day for visitors from around the world. These museums have long been known to house the largest or most significant collections from archeological digs and famous artists.

10 The Vatican Museums - Vatican City, Rome

The first of the massive network of museums within Vatican City was created when Pope Julius II donated his large collections of sculptures to be cared for and exhibited within the city.

This was in 1506 AD and today, these museums contain the largest collection of art from the Middle Ages to the present, much of it of vital importance to the Roman Catholic faith.

9 Capitoline Museums - Rome, Italy

Outside the walls of the Vatican City, in the city of Rome, the Capitoline Museums were first created in 1471. It was then that Pope Sixtus IV donated his large collection of prehistoric bronze pieces that he and his predecessors had been collecting over many decades.

It wasn't until 1734, however, when the museums were opened to the public. Today, the Capitoline Museums are owned and managed by the city of Rome and just as with modern museums, they regularly exhibit certain artifacts or art pieces.

8 Hermitage Museum - St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg, Russia is home to many museums and even two of the 10 oldest museums in the world. The Hermitage Museum is known to house the most significant collection of items important to both art and culture in the world. It was first opened in 1852 and today it is home to over 3 million pieces that have been collected from various cultures around the world.

You'll find everything from archeological artifacts to the newest graphic art pieces. Each year on December 7th, the anniversary of the opening of the museum with a donation of pieces from St. Catherine. There are even forgotten sites around Russia that might be just as beautiful as the art houses within this city's museums.

7 Kunstkamera - St. Petersburg, Russia

The other museum in St. Petersburg also classified as one of the oldest in the world is Kunstkamera. The name is derived from the German word, kunstkammer, which means "art chamber." Peter the Great made the first contribution to the museum's collection which is now over 200,000 pieces.

The doors opened to the public in 1727, just 10 years after his generous donation. This museum is also one of the most recognized of the oldest museums, except for our next museum on the list.

6 Louvre Museum - Paris, France

Not only is the Louvre Museum in Paris the most easily recognized museum in the world, it's also the most visited. Many of those visiting the city stop to take a picture in front of the museum's famous glass pyramid.

This museum isn't only popular on the outside, however. The Louvre is home to many of history's greatest works of art, such as the Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci and The Great Sphinx of Tanis, which dates back to the Egyptian Old Kingdom. It's doubtful you will find any fake pieces here at the Louvre, like those found at this other French museum.

5 Museum of Fine Art and Archaeology - Besancon, France

The Museum of Fine Art and Archaeology in Besancon, France is also known locally as Musee des Beaux-Arts et d'archeologie de Besancon. Jean Baptiste, the famous painter, donated a large collection of his own work in 1694 to get the museum up and running. Today, this museum is the oldest in France and one of the oldest museums in the world.

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It is home to a large collection of paintings as well as drawings but also shows off several archaeological exhibits.

4 Amerbach Cabinet - Basel, Switzerland

Now known as one of Switzerland's heritage sites, the Kunstmuseum Basel acquired the Amerbach Cabinet in 1661. The city of Basel owns the museum and continually adds to the large collections of drawings and paintings that are exhibited here.

When the city purchased the museum, it became the first museum in the world that was owned by a municipality and not a royal family, an individual, or an organization. A significant number of works by Hans Holbein can be seen here at the Amerbach Cabinet.

3 Royal Armouries - Tower of London, UK

The Tower of London used to be home to a large museum that was not only the oldest museum in Britain but also one of the oldest in the world. This museum was originally opened to the public in 1660 and was another attraction for those who were stopping by to view the Crown Jewels if they were on display.

Since then, this museum has been split into three separate museums with one in the Victorian Fort at Portsmouth, one in Leeds, and another in West Yorkshire. Whether united at the Tower of London or separated, this museum is home to the largest and oldest collection of armories in the world.

2 Belvedere Palace - Vienna, Austria

The Belvedere Palace was once home to the Habsburg Royal Family. It was opened as a public museum in 1781 and is known to be the home of the most extensive collection of works by Gustav Klint. The building itself, or the collection of buildings, is one of the most beautiful in the world and is highly regarded for both it's outer architecture and the valuable exhibits within its doors.

Home to mostly Austrian art, the collections date back to the Middle Ages and even some exhibits from present-day artists.

1 The Indian Museum - Kolkata, India

The Bengal Asiatic Society finally developed their museum on lands that had been donated by the government many years before for that sole purpose.

Located on Chowringhee-Park Street in Kolkata, India, this museum is dedicated to displaying art and artifacts important to the people of India, including mummies and skeletons, antiques, and even armor that has been used throughout the ages in the region.

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