About the collection

Comprising nearly 280,000 ethnographic items and objects of cultural history, the Museum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures) oversees one of the largest collections of everyday culture and popular art in Europe. It houses both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, predominately from Germany and countries from Eastern and South Eastern Europe. In particular, its collection of historical objects from ethnic minorities is peerless in scope.

Made from the most varied materials imaginable – such as textiles, ceramic, glass, paper or wood – the objects represent numerous aspects of native and foreign, past and present lifeworlds. Of particular significance are the holdings of textiles, photographs, and popular prints, and the exceptional, thematically arranged collections of "naive art", childhood and youth culture as well as rituals and forms of religiosity. The last of these includes an extensive number of objects from the three monotheistic world religions. In the 20th century, the Berlin collector Gertrud Weinhold was responsible for expanding the collection’s cultural points of comparison beyond the borders of Europe.

Organising research projects and exhibitions according to the motto "The present is the history of the future", in recent years the museum has devoted increasing attention to its collection of objects from contemporary cultures. This present focus has been guided by socially relevant, scholarly inquiries into topics such as "plural societies", "cultural hybridity", "immigration and integration", "piety and spirituality", "images of self and other" and "cultural memory". In the process of this work, the museum places great value on involving those people whose milieu is being considered.

Publications of the Museum Europäischer Kulturen [Download PDF]

The Museum Europäischer Kulturen has been shaped by nearly 150 years of eventful history. After the reunification of the Staatliche Museum zu Berlin in 1992, the Museum für (Deutsche) Volkskunde (Museum of [German] Folklore) and the European collection of the Museum für Völkerkunde (today the Ethnologisches Museum) merged to create the Museum Europäischer Kulturen in 1999. This represented an important step towards a modern perspective on acquisitions and research pertaining to the history of everyday culture in Europe.

Despite differing attitudes towards acquisition and research methods, the two collections had previously shared many common aspects. Opened to the public in 1886, the European collection at the Museum für Völkerkunde dates back to the time of the "Kunstkammer" art collection of Brandenburg-Prussia, and also featured European ethnographical objects although it had no works originating explicitly from Germany.

As a result, the first centralised museum for folklore in Germany, the Museum für deutsche Volkstrachten und Erzeugnisse des Hausgewerbes (Museum for German Traditional Costumes and Domestic Products) was founded in Berlin in 1889 by a private association under the directorship of the physician, anthropologist, and ethnologist Rudolf Virchow. Its aim was to present the cultural achievements of the German peoples as well as those of neighbouring countries which had been excluded until then. To that effect, Virchow’s concept anticipated a comparative collection of European ethnographic objects.

With the support of the art patron James Simon, the Collection of German Folklore was integrated into the Royal Prussian Museums in 1904 under the auspices of the Museum für Völkerkunde. The collection became the independent Staatliches Museum für Deutsche Volkskunde and was awarded its own building, the Schloss Bellevue [now domicile of the German Federal President), in 1935. The establishment of an independent Eurasian department within the Museum für Völkerkunde in 1934 required that the German folklore collection relinquish all its "non-German" objects, clearly separating it from the European collection.

During World War II about 80 percent of the German folklore collections were destroyed. The political division following the war led to the partition of the German Folklore Museum in Berlin: the Museum für Volkskunde on the Museumsinsel Berlin in the Eastern part of the city, and a restored ethnographic collection in the Western part, administrated for several years by the Museum für Völkerkunde. After the Western folklore collection became an independent museum again in 1963, the holdings of the renamed Museum für Deutsche Volkskunde were displayed in Berlin-Dahlem, starting in 1976. The Museum für Völkerkunde continued to be the primary collector of European ethnographic objects, but public access was limited to special exhibitions or study collections.

The collections’ unification in 1999, mentioned above, led to the establishment of a new museum with a European perspective. Today, the Museum Europäischer Kulturen documents and collects objects from everyday life on the continent, transcending national and linguistic borders by means of a pan-European and international exchange process. These objects are then presented to the public through a permanent exhibition and thematic exhibitions and events.

Titles of publication released by the Museum Europäischer Kulturen are listed in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin bibliography.

Visitor entrance

Lansstraße 8 / Arnimallee 25
14195 Berlin

Getting there

Tel 030 - 266 42 42 42 (Mon - Fri, 9 am - 4 pm)
Questions | Bookings | Feedback

Postal address:
Im Winkel 8
14195 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 266426801/-02
Fax: +49 (0)30 / 266426804

Director: Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Tietmeyer
Deputy Director: Drs. Léontine Meijer-van Mensch

Café and restaurant 'eßkultur' at the Museen Dahlem
Mrs. Claus
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 8301433

Bookshop Walther König
Mrs. Heilmann
Tel.: +49 (0)30 / 83203581