From its inception, the collection of the modern-day Historical Museum was closely linked with Gotha. Starting in 1872, citizens from Gotha’s Anthropological Association had gathered things dear to them to prevent them being forgotten. Since 1924, their collection of objects relating to the region’s history has been housed in the Castle’s western tower. With its rich assortment of exhibits – household objects, textiles, furniture, toys, clocks, cards, weapons, fine art, historical photographs and much more – it is one of Thuringia’s most significant cultural-historical collections. The earliest finds date back from 100,000 B.C.E. up until the Stone Age. Grave finds, tools, containers, jewellery and much more from the massive collection – the second biggest in Thuringia – are displayed with descriptions and illustrate the area’s historical development from the Stone Age to the migration period.
The area of the exhibition looking at the Middle Ages to the 18th century focuses particularly on economic developments, the Reformation, and the reforms of the castle’s first ruler, Ernst the Pious, which transformed the region into model state. The museum pays special attention to Luther’s repeated visits to Gotha and to the modernising of the Church and school system carried out by his friend Friedrich Myconius. Moreover, the beginnings of freemasonry, astronomy, and most importantly school reform in Gotha are highlighted – Ernst I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was the first German prince to introduce compulsory education.