The Azerbaijan Museum, located next to the Blue Mosque and Khaqani Park in central part of Tabriz, is the second most important archeological museum in Iran after the Archeological Section of National Museum in Tehran and it has the largest collection that belongs to different periods of Iran’s history.
The museum was established on April 1958 and was designed by a French archeologist and architect, Andre Godard. This fascinating museum consists of three major halls, a side yard, some office rooms and a library. Its objects from pre-Islamic and Islamic era were mostly discovered from excavations in Azerbaijan, Iran as well as some art works and sculptures by contemporary artists which are displayed on two floors.
The first floor is to exhibit the finds belonged to pre-historic and ancient Iran some of which 7000 years old. On the second floor objects from Islamic era can be seen, with a hall displaying Iranian coins from Achemeniad to Qajar period. The basement is used to show some contemporary statues. The library contains more than 2500 books both handwritten and printed about history, archeology, art and Iranian culture. In the yard of the museum some stone figurines, statues, rams and inscriptions can be seen.
The three galleries in the museum display different items as follows:
1. The first gallery houses the oldest remains from the 5th millennium BC until Sassanid dynasty (212-656 AD) including idols, rhyons, a male and a female skeleton and a carved slab of marble weighing about three tons and known as Bism Allah Stone as well as pottery, carpets, candlesticks, and glass from about 650 to 1900.
2. The second gallery is divided into two parts, one for Islamic Archeology and another one for coins and seals. Part one includes pottery dated from the 10th to the 19th century. The coins in part two start from the Achemeniad and end in the Qajar dynasty. The seals and stamps displayed in the Azerbaijan Museum date from the 3rd millennium BC to the Islamic period including a Sassanid agate stamp seal with the sun and the moon image and Pahlavi inscription on it.
3. The third gallery, located in the basement, displays some plaster sculptures and several tall bronze statues made by Ahmad Hosseini, an artist born in Tabriz to represent the sculptor’s predictions of what might happen to mankind in the 20th century.
Although the Azerbaijan Museum is well-guarded, on May 7, 2013 five silver plates from the Sassanid period were stolen from the museum. On November 2013, Azerbaijan police arrested the thieves, but unfortunately the stolen items could not be retrieved.
There are many fine impressively designed and made objects such as the 5th millennium ceramics, beautiful weights, a lot of Bronze Age pottery and jewelry from Khodafarin, an Iron Age idol from Rostamabad, an excellent Achemanid rhyton, and a marvelous gold cup. The most beautiful objects are undoubtedly the precious Sassanid gold and silver dishes that take the visitors’ breath away. There are also some objects from other parts of Iran, including bronze items from Lorestan and a Parthian figure from Susa.
The low-key light in the museum is used to make the objects look even more mysterious. There is a nice bookshop providing the visitors with archeological brushers and booklets and also photos of all collections displaying in the museum are available on DVD, which is a kind of digital catalog.