The architectural core of the museum is a late medieval monastery, of which the cloister, church and monastic apartments survive. Its external appearance is dominated by buildings designed by architect Sep Ruf during the 50s and 60s and the recently erected Museum Forum with Dani Karavan’s Way of Human Rights in the Kartäusergasse (1986-1996).
The permanent exhibitions are arranged in 17 departments spanning the spectrum from prehistoric times to contemporary art and culture. A total of approx. 25,000 exhibits objects offer visitors a chronological panorama: from paleolithic hand-axes through the emperor portraits of Albrecht Dürer to contemporary art and design. Frequently changing exhibitions highlight specialized aspects of the art and social history of the German-speaking world. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum is more than just a museum. In addition to the individual collection departments, it houses the Historical Archives, the Deutsches Kunstarchiv, the Cabinet of Coins and Medals, the German Bell Archives, the Collection of Prints and Drawings and an Institute for Art Technology and Conservation. The specialized research library – the largest historico-cultural library in the Federal Republic of Germany, with more than 650,000 volumes on European art and cultural history is accessible to the general public.
The Germanisches Nationalmuseum has maintained a press of its own since 1854, making it the oldest museum press in Europe. Today, the publication list includes catalogues of exhibitions and collections, the annual “Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseum” and other serial publications.