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History of the Collection

Whether they were precision instruments for the mining industry, astronomical devices for maritime navigation or ballistic machines for military deployment, every item that Elector August and his successors placed in the Kunstkammer, which was founded in 1560, had to be of outstanding quality. Elector August purchased – mainly from the imperial cities of Nuremberg and Augsburg – tools and scientific instruments which represented the very latest in technical innovation. They simultaneously met the extremely high artistic demands of a prestigious princely collection: gilt instruments that made use of mathematics and mechanics to survey the heavens and the earth, to explore mysteries and to symbolically reinforce the position of court society. About 150 years later, August the Strong not only purchased scientific instruments but also engaged the services of talented craftsmen and brought them to Saxony. In association with local craftsmen, they laid the foundations for the development of a Saxon instrument-making industry manufacturing top-quality products.

It was also August the Strong who, in 1728, established the »Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments« as an independent museum in the Zwinger. Shortly afterwards, the first inventory was produced. In 1746 the museum was given the name it still bears today. Although the collection had by now taken on the character of a museum, many of the inspectors responsible for it were practising scientists or instrument makers and used the apparatus as Elector August had done in earlier times. Today the task of the museum is to preserve these breathtakingly beautiful and technically brilliant instruments for future generations and to present them to the public as testimony to a bygone age. For this purpose, the building is currently being refurbished prior to the opening of a newly designed exhibition in which more than a thousand fascinating objects will be on display.