Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (German: Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (SPK)), headquartered in Berlin, Germany, was established in 1957 by German Federal law with the mission to acquire and preserve the cultural legacy of the former State of Prussia. Its purview encompasses over 27 institutions, including all of Berlin's State-run Museums, the Berlin State Library, the Prussian Privy State Archives and a variety of institutes and research centers. As such it has become one of largest cultural organizations in the world.[2]

Prussian Cultural Heritage
Foundation (SPK)
Established25 July 1957
Missionacquire and protect the cultural legacy of the former State of Prussia
PresidentHermann Parzinger
Vice PresidentGünther Schauerte
Budget€137.517 million (2019)[1]
EndowmentFederal and State
AddressVon-der-Heydt-Straße 16-18
10785 Berlin, Germany

The Federal Government and the German States are jointly responsible for the Foundation, both legally and financially. Its operations include preservation and care of the collections, their structure and development, and the continuation of academic and scientific research with a mission to encourage learning and understanding between different peoples.[3]


During World War II, the cultural artifacts and fine arts in Prussia, especially in Berlin, came under increasing threat of loss. To protect them from Allied bombing, millions of items were evacuated to relative safety in monasteries, castles and abandoned mines around Germany starting in 1941. With the collapse of the Third Reich in 1945, many of these collections wound up damaged, destroyed, or variously hidden in the Allied occupation zones. All the former Prussian institutions ceased to officially exist when the State of Prussia was abolished in 1947, placing these assets in further doubt. As Germany became divided into West and East, what remained of the buildings and scattered collections were also separated by the Iron Curtain.[4]

The Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation began in 1957 by a West German constitutional mandate to find and preserve the collections still stored throughout the former western occupation zones. In 1961, efforts began to move these materials to West Berlin. From the mid-1960s onward, a series of Modernist buildings were constructed at the Kulturforum to serve as new homes for the collections, including the Gemäldegalerie, the Neue Nationalgalerie and the Berlin State Library. Upon German Reunification in 1990, the Foundation's role expanded considerably to encompass many of the most important cultural properties of the former East Germany. The most important tasks today are in the consolidation of collections, reconstruction of physical space, conservation-restoration and Provenance research.


In 1980 the Foundation's headquarters moved into a historic building at Von-der-Heydt-Straße 16. The Villa Von Der Heydt was built between 1860 and 1862 in neo-renaissance style by the architect Hermann Ende for Baron August von der Heydt, who was Minister of Finance under Otto von Bismarck in the last Prussian cabinet before the founding of the German Empire in 1871.

After Von der Heydt's death in 1874 the building became home to the first Chinese ambassador to Wilhelm II, who decorated its splendid rooms with valuable works of art. In 1938 the villa was bought by the Nazi government and used as an official residence by Hans Lammers, Cabinet Minister in the Reich Chancellery.

The house was severely damaged in World War II, with only the basement and the outer walls remaining. In the immediate post-war years it was occupied by a sweets factory and an illicit still. The villa's gloomy ruins also once formed the backdrop for a spy film. It was not until 1971 that plans for reconstruction of the building began under the aegis of the German Federal Buildings Authority. Renovations completed in 1980.[5]

The Foundation has since expanded operations to a new office building at Von-der-Heydt-Straße 16 52°30′24.83″N 13°21′10.18″E.

Institutions administered

The Heritage Foundation has overall responsibility for the following institutions and facilities:


The foundation awards the annual Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Prize to the winner of a competition between the best students from Germany's conservatories. Each year a different instrument is chosen.

The Ernst Waldschmidt Prize is awarded every five years for academically valuable achievements in the field of Indology, in particular in the fields in which Waldschmidt himself specialized: Buddhism, Indian and Central Asian archaeology and art.[6]

Since 2004, the Foundation sponsors positions for the Voluntary Social Year in Culture (German: Freiwillige Soziale Jahr in der Kultur or FSJ), a program of National Service for teenagers and young adults who meet certain educational requirements. There is a position each at the Directorate-General of the Berlin State Museums, Ibero-American Institute, Berlin State Library and the Central Archive of the Berlin State Museums.

The Heritage Foundation also awards scholarships for one- to three-month research and work residencies in Berlin. The scholarships are primarily intended to enable foreign scholars to work at the museums, libraries and archives and make professional contacts with staff.[7]

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, co-chairs the German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program (PREP) for Museum Professionals for 2017-2019.[8]

List of presidents

See also


  1. "Bundeshaushalt".
  2. Langels, Otto: "Constitutional Reality: 50 years of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation", in German, Deutschlandradio, 25 July 2007
  3. "SPK Einrichtungen" [Facilities of the Foundation] (in German). SPK. 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  4. "Die Geschichte der Staatsbibliothek" [History of the State Library] (in German). SBB. Retrieved 2012-02-01.
  5. "SPK Sitz der Stiftung" [Headquarters of the Foundation] (in German). SPK. Archived from the original on 2012-01-28. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  6. "Call for Applications: Ernst-Waldschmidt-Prize". SMB. July 4, 2008. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  7. "Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) Scholarships". February 25, 2009. Retrieved 2012-02-03.
  8. "Smithsonian - Provenance in the World War II Era, 1933 - 1945". Retrieved 2017-04-20.

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