History of the Collection

In 1869, the museum was founded by the citizens of Leipzig. In the following period, the collection was considerably expanded.

During the German colonial period from 1884 and the period of activity of the later director Karl Weule from 1899, the collection increased fivefold. This was made possible by Weule's worldwide network of so-called collectors. One of the most important object donors of this time was the wealthy Leipzig publishing heir Hans Meyer (1858-1929). The objects were collected by many people on research expeditions, during missionary activities, on military campaigns, during looting, through grave robbery or on private trips.

Since 1927, the Museum of Ethnology is located within the GRASSI Museum on Johannisplatz. During a bombing raid in 1943, it was largely destroyed and one fifth of its collection destroyed.

Beginning in 1947, the staff set about systematically rebuilding the museum. In 1954, the first permanent exhibition opened which was updated or redesigned several times in the following decades. The museum supported especially smaller houses with numerous traveling exhibitions and brought the material cultures of the world to all corners of the German Democratic Republic. From 2001 to 2005, the entire GRASSI Museum was renovated and the new permanent exhibition opened in 2009, on its 140th anniversary.

Currently, we are working on the reorientation of the museum towards becoming a network museum that deals reflexively with its own history. An important step in this direction is the future program REINVENTING.GRASSI.SKD, which is funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation as part of the initiative for ethnological collections. The new permanent exhibition focuses more strongly on cultural, political, historical and social interconnections across continents and regions. Impulses related to current and future-relevant questions are given in thematically oriented exhibition areas.


Ganesha, Götterplastik, Indien, Foto: Tom Dachs
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