The North Bohemian Museum was founded in 1873 as the oldest museum of applied arts in the Czech lands. Since its foundation the museum was very successful at gathering valuable collections of applied arts from Europe and Asia, which soon required a new building. The international design contest held in Vienna in 1895 awarded the design of Austrian architect Friedrich Ohmann, which was brought to life in 1898 by German architect Hans Grisebach. The building structure combines, rather charmingly, medieval and early modern period design elements of sacred and palace architecture.
After 1945, new departments featuring local history and natural sciences were added to the museum; currently it resides in 6 more buildings housing over 500,000 collection items. Today, besides an extensive library, the North Bohemian Museum comprises three collection departments – of natural science, history (including archaeology) and history of art.
The museum boasts outstanding collections with a particularly rich array in the field of art crafts – its collection of oriental carpets is the second largest in the Czech Republic, the same holds true for its collection of contemporary author tapestry. Particularly valuable and sizeable collections include Coptic textiles, historical Goblin tapestry, embroidered liturgical vestments, lace, glass, china, artistic iron works, tin works, posters, old prints etc. The museum also features rich historical, ethnographic and natural science collections. Also of major importance is the collection of over 160,000 negatives with the oldest specimens dating back to around 1860. The most interesting items are being gradually made available on-line at esbirky.cz.