After the Second World War, the museum began to collect systematically art and cultural objects from the 19th century. Tellingly, the most notable acquisitions in this area in the 1950s were works that reflected the museum’s underlying concept of Romantic nationalism.

In the postwar era, it was decided to explore art and culture within the context of pan-European developments and to investigate simultaneously different trends that were characteristic of the many independent German states prior to unification in 1871.

The collection focuses on the principles of the emerging middle class from the eve of the French Revolution to the turn of the century. By tracing the transformation of the traditional social order to a class-based society, the collection illustrates the rich diversity of these newly evolving perspectives and motifs. Romantic nationalism, the failed revolution of 1848/49 and the foundation of the German Reich in 1871 are milestones in German national history with which the museum is closely linked.

Products from the burgeoning art industry form another focus of the collection, demonstrating the dynamics of technological progress which was closely related to the increasing affluence of the middle class.