One of the major archaeological museums, the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, serves as an example to discuss present problems of museology. I argue that the development of museums has to be analysed from a combination of perspectives, including an historical one, that of visitors and of museum staff. In a first section, the paper outlines the history of the Pergamon Museum, including an institutional history and the larger socio–political framework. To highlight the range of possibilities of understanding, I give two readings of the museum from the viewpoints of differently oriented visitors, one colonialist, the other postmodern. I then consider current debates among curators and distinguish between two main exhibition strategies, one pragmatist, the other purist. Finally, I discuss the larger framework in which museums exist, which shows their problematic status. Using critical theory's distinction between culture industry and affirmative (elite) culture, I show that the Pergamon and other museums survive today only through an uneasy compromise between these two extreme poles of culture.