The idea of a public museum in Luxembourg dates back to the late eighteenth century. In 1845, Luxembourg historians and archaeologists founded the Organisation for Research and Conservation of Historic Buildings in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This organisation took care of a collection of antiques, previously established as part of the Grand Ducal Athenaeum. In 1868, a royal decree founded the Grand Ducal Institute, which included a history section responsible for the conservation of archaeological and historical collections.
Various stages followed from 1874 to 1922, when the museum project became a reality through the acquisition of the Collart - de Scherff mansion, located at the Fish Market.
1845-1922 Collections without a museum
From 1845 onwards, the Organisation for the Preservation and Restoration of Historical Monuments began to establish numismatic collections, followed by archaeological and historical collections, which in 1868 became the historical section of the Grand Ducal Institute. It continued to propose to the government that its collections be made available for a new museum, but such proposals were rejected.
Between 1893 and 1922 several projects were planned, including the exhibition of certain art collections of the city of Luxembourg. As their funding was not assured, none of these projects ever saw the light of day.
1922-1939 From projects to a museum
In 1922 the government finally bought the Collart - de Scherff mansion at the Fish Market in order to turn it into a museum, with conversion work beginning two years later. Delayed by funding problems, the work was not completed until 1939, coinciding with the centennial celebration of the independence of Luxembourg. It took a century to see the independent Grand Duchy equip itself with a museum!
The Second World War, however, broke out before the museum's inauguration, meaning that the collections - barely installed - had to be placed in safe locations.
1940-1946 From the Landesmuseum Luxemburg to the State Museums
The Nazi occupiers developed ambitious plans as part of their policy of Germanisation: the museum had to become a showcase of German culture and German "Volkstum". The considerable extensions of the buildings envisaged by the Nazi leaders, however, were restrained by the course of the war and from 1943 the collections had to be deposited in a safe place.
After the war, the majority of the collections were safely returned to the museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1946.