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GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig (GRASSI Ethnographical Museum in Leipzig)

A tour through the rooms of the Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig is like a journey around the world. The art and everyday life of distant cultures enable visitors to get away from their own day-to-day concerns. In its newly designed rooms in the Grassimuseum at Johannisplatz, the museum shows items held in the Saxon ethnographical collections originating from nearly every culture in the world.

Since the 19th century works of art and other articles of daily life have been assembled and these are now among the most significant items for preserving the heritage of many cultures. Exotic, precious and sometimes unique exhibits demonstrate the art and ways of life of a world that has moved closer together but which is still largely unfamiliar. The exhibition tour on the first floor provides exciting insights into the reality of life in Indonesia, India, Tibet and Mongolia, China, Japan, Europe and the Orient. The second tour takes visitors through Africa, America, then on to Australia and Oceania, thus completing the journey around the world. The exhibitions are designed in such a way that they are attractive to art connoisseurs as well as visitors who are interested in the ways of life of other cultures. The museum’s famous collections of exceptional objects relating to Siberian shamanism, oriental jewellery and the works of art of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as about the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Islands transport the visitor to distant and fabled worlds.

The motif of travelling is also constantly present in the history of the Museum für Völkerkunde. Whether it was the travelling researchers and collectors who set out to study distant peoples or the museum staff who for decades constantly moved from one provisional location to another in search of the home for their collections, a brief moment of rest was always followed by a new departure. The Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig can now look back on a history that extends back more than 140 years. Having been initially founded and supported by Leipzig citizens, today it has grown into one of the leading institutions of its kind in Germany.

  • History of the Collection

    The city of Leipzig owes its Museum für Völkerkunde to the commitment and initiative of its citizens. Founded in the year 1869, it now holds around 200,000 objects and an extensive collection of photos and documents in its archives, making it one of the most important institutions of its kind. Since 1929 the museum has been housed in the new Grassimuseum, which was erected between 1925 and 1927 on the site of the former Johannisfriedhof cemetery and the Johannishospital. The foundations of the museum were laid through the purchase of the private collection assembled by the Dresden Hofrat (councillor) and senior librarian Dr. Gustav Klemm, who was an important cultural historian in his day. Throughout his life Klemm had sought a home for his collection, a museum for the cultural history of mankind. Unfortunately, it was not until after his death that this dream began to be turned into reality through the foundation of the Leipzig Museum für Völkerkunde. Thanks to the tireless collecting activities and the skilful organisation of the directors and staff of the museum, the holdings were considerably expanded in subsequent years. Many of its precious objects came into the collection thanks to friends of the Museum, patrons and sponsors. Famous personalities such as Heinrich Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy, the Brockhaus and Meyer publishing dynasties – including the great researcher Hans Meyer, who was also the first to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro – were all closely associated with the Museum für Völkerkunde in Leipzig.