These eight emblematic museums all show their roots in the 18th century European idea of an institution representing the complete development of human culture in a microcosm. Each of the eight chapters here recounts the history of an individual museum by traveling through its entire history on a path to the collections' masterpieces, presented as an easy-to-follow-path of spectacular photographs and captions. Diverse as their present-day collections may be, the purest form of the museum can be seen at the core of each institution, starting with the Vatican Museums; on to the Russian Imperial Collections in the citadel of the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg; in the Hapsburg Collections, assembled in the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna. The Bourbon Collections now in Museo del Prado in Madrid, The Napoleonic dream of "the Universal Museum," leads to the present-day structure of the Louvre in Paris, as well as its counterpart, the British Museum in London, founded to accommodate the marble sculptures from the Parthenon that Lord Elgin brought back from Athens. And finally, the ambition to create a citadel of culture, a new Acropolis of universal knowledge, is fully present in the Prussian museum system built on the Museumsinsel in Berlin and, on a smaller scale, in the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam. "Great Museums of Europe" recaptures a grand impulse of Western civilization: that our great achievements in art are a story that can and must be preserved in a comprehensive way so that it is told forever.