museum of enlightenment and research center

After the Emperor’s premature death, Maria Theresa gave the natural science collection to the state and opened it up to the general public. Thus she created the first museum in line with the principles and visions of the Enlightenment.

Maria Theresa was not a passionate collector. Yet, as a ruler she recognized the practical importance of the natural sciences for her empire. Mineralogy was of particular interest to her because of the potential it held for mining and exploiting raw materials in the lands belonging to the empire.

It was Maria Theresa who brought the famous mineralogist Ignaz von Born to Vienna. Born, who had developed a new method of extracting precious metals, was tasked with classifying and expanding the collections. To this end he had minerals from many different regions sent to Vienna, where they were added to the collection. Under the leadership of Ignaz von Born the cabinet of natural history quickly developed into a center of practical research.

Born was not only a famous mineralogist but also a well-known Freemason. Some historians believe he was the inspiration for the character Sarastro in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.