The National Museum of Unification, Alba Iulia

The National Museum of Unification at Alba Iulia stands in the centre of the old citadel of Alba Carolina, as a permanent reminder of the events that marked the vast history of the city through its two millennia of existence. It is comprised of two buildings facing each other, both dating from the second half of the 19th century: the “Babylon” building and the Union Hall.

The “Babylon” building, with its three stories and U-shaped structure, is quite remarkable due to its particular military air, rendered by the bulwarks and small decorative corner towers right underneath the sloping roof. Initially built between 1851 and 1853 as military quarters for the officers and their families, with more than 100 rooms, it was much later reorganised as a regional museum (1967-1968) to house 64 exhibition rooms. Right across the street, the Union Hall was built as a military club in 1898-1900, this being the place where, on the 1st of December 1918, the 1228 delegates voted for the Unification of Transylvania with Romania, hence its name. This year holds a special meaning for the museum complex at Alba Iulia, as Romanians everywhere celebrate the Centennial since the Great Unification, and Alba Iulia will certainly be in the main limelight during the December festivities marking the event.

The history of the Regional Museum of Alba Iulia started with the founding of the Society for History, Archaeology and Natural Sciences of Alba County by Professor Sigismund Reiner in 1887 and the opening of the museum in the next year in the building that now houses the No. 3 Public School. The first custodian and director of the museum, the archaeologist and Professor Adalbert Cserni, of Czech descent, greatly improved the museum collections and started systematic archaeological research in the Roman legionary fort, in the civilian settlement of Apulum and in the Palace of Governor of Dacia (praetorium consularis). During the First World War, part of the museum collections was lost, and after the Union with Romania, the museum moved in a new location, within the Unification Cathedral Complex.

In 1921-1922, the Union Hall was restored and additional structural elements were added, including the building’s façade made to resemble a triumphal arch. Inside, there were several paintings on canvas belonging to the French painter Pierre Bellet, representing great Romanian historical and cultural personalities. After a short period of decline caused by financial difficulties, the museum regained its strength in 1938, and a year later the journal Apvlvm. Acta Musei Apulensis was first edited.

During the Communist Regime, in 1958 the former Military Club building was attributed to the museum and in 1967 the main exhibitions were moved in the “Babylon” building, to be reorganised chronologically in 1975, in its present-day configuration, as follows: Archaeology (Dacian Prehistory and Roman History), Medieval and Modern History, Ethnography and Folk Art, Numismatics and a library containing more than 55.000 volumes.