The “Babilon” building is a three-story, U-shaped structure, topped by a gently sloped roof and with an unmistakable, though subtle, military air. Perhaps most striking in that respect is the existence of bulwarks right underneath the roof or of the small towers marking the corners of the building. The look is perfectly suited both to its current use, as a museum, and to its former use, as quarters for army officers and their families. In fact, it was these officers inhabiting the more than 100 rooms of the building that earned it the unofficial name of “Babilon”, as they came from all corners of the world. Currently the Babilon building is organized into 64 exhibition halls, with the subjects neatly arranged in chronological order.
The Union Hall, which was first built as a military casino, was erected between 1898 and 1900 but suffered major changes in 1921-1922. A wide triumphal arc was added in front, complete with a marble plate commemorating the fact that this was where the Union between Transylvania and Romania was voted, signed and proclaimed on December 1st 1918. An additional terrace was built on the eastern side of the Hall, whereas inside the architects added an anteroom, lateral niches at the northern and southern ends of the hall, as well as a series of canvases by the French painter Pierre Bellet representing portraits of Romanian monarchs and cultural figures.
The history of this museum is rooted in the passionate work and extensive efforts of Czech archaeologist and professor Adalbert Cserny, first custodian and director of the museum, who actively contributed to increasing the collection of the museum both by coordinating archaeological research and by collecting various items of historical importance from the inhabitants of Alba Iulia and neighboring communities. By his death in 1916 he had enriched the patrimony of the museum with 5865 prehistoric exhibits, 6544 items of Roman origin, 679 medieval pieces, 3937 coins, 7267 objects relating to natural sciences and 4634 books.
Even though the museum suffered significant losses during World War One, when part of the collection was either stolen or misplaced, today its patrimony is made of an impressive 200,000 exhibits, with some 70,000 books in its library, a huge progress from when it was first set up, in 1887, at which time it counted only 662 archaeological exhibits and some 1000 numismatic ones, in addition to a few hundred books donated by professor Sigismund Reiner, who had come up with the idea of the museum in the first place. Some of the most important exhibits currently displayed are related to the Revolution of 1848 – such as letters and personal belongings of Avram Iancu – and the Union of 1918 – such as the 6 leather bound volumes containing the Acts of the Union and the original manuscript of the speech delivered by Vasile Goldis on the occasion.