A short intro to the Weltmuseum Wien without words. The film can be viewed here or in theHall of Columns of our museum.
Mission & History
Exhibitions provide ethnological museums with an opportunity to display their collections to the general public. The treasures they preserve are dedicated to the better understanding of individual cultures or regions of the world, or offer a comparative approach to the entire spectrum of cultural diversity.
In their examination of cultural differences and that which all people have in common, ethnological museums render an important contribution to the understanding of a world that has become much smaller due to the improved possibilities of mobility and communication, and at the same time increasingly multicultural due to migration. It is our task to contextualise social changes and developments in today’s world by means of our extensive collections.
The Weltmuseum Wien – formerly the Museum of Ethnology – houses comprehensive collections of ethnographic objects, historical photographs, and books on non-European civilisations, making it one of the leading ethnographic museums in the world. Its roots can be traced back to the year 1806, when the “Imperial and Royal Ethnographic Collection” was established as part of the Imperial Natural History Cabinet after the partial acquisition of the “Cook Collection”. The continuously growing collections were transferred to the anthropological-ethnographic department of the Court Museum of Natural History in 1876. The Museum of Ethnology was formally opened in the Corps de Logis, Neue Burg, in 1928.
Its earliest ethnographic artefacts of the Weltmuseum Wien date back to the 16th century. Renaissance chambers of art and curiosities comprised highly popular exotic objects. The collection of Archduke Ferdinand II at Ambras Castle in Tirol contained numerous important ethnographic artefacts, among them pre-Columbian and colonial feather objects, treasures from Mexico, and examples of African-Portuguese ivory carving. In the course of the Napoleonic Wars, the Ambras Collection ended up in Vienna. Aside from the Ambras Collection and the almost 250 objects collected by James Cook (1728–1779) on his travels and acquired in London in 1806, the foundation of the Imperial and Royal Ethnographic Collection was laid with the collections brought back from the Austrian Brazil Expedition (1817–1836), first and foremost the objects collected by the naturalist Johann Natterer, and the collection assembled on the journey around the world of the Austrian frigate “Novara” between 1857 and 1859.
Following the razing of Vienna’s old fortifications and the old city’s subsequent urban development and expansion, the Imperial and Royal Court Museum of Natural History replaced the venerable “court cabinets” in 1876. Its first director, Ferdinand von Hochstetter, divided the holdings into five collections, the fifth being the separate anthropological-ethnographic department, the predecessor of the Museum of Ethnology. The Imperial and Royal Court Museum of Natural History opened its doors in 1889, and Franz Heger was made director of the department. Heger’s brisk collecting activity, the acquisitions made by many explorers and travellers, the voyages undertaken by ships of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, and the generous patronage of members of the imperial court greatly increased the collection’s holdings. Soon, however, the lack of space was untenable, at the latest when the collection amassed by Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Este on his voyage of circumnavigation of 1892/93 had to be incorporated: it comprised 14,000 ethnographic objects and more than 1,100 photographs. From as early as 1912, the “Este Collection” was displayed in the new wing of Hofburg Palace, which had initially been designed as imperial living quarters. In light of the discipline of ethnology’s new self-image and the slow drifting apart of the holdings of the anthropological-ethnographic department, the ethnographic collection was to be separated from the Museum of Natural History and installed in a separate museum in the Corps de Logis of Hofburg Palace, the Neue Burg. In 1928 the “Museum of Ethnology” was formally opened.
After the serious financial constraints of the interbellum period, World War II, and the immediate post-war era, when the Museum first served as a field hospital and then as the provisional home of the orthopaedic hospital, the general economic upswing of the years following the war led to the most innovative period in the history of the Museum of Ethnology. Galleries, depots and offices were expanded, and a chemical laboratory, a photographic studio with darkroom, a carpentry workshop, and even a printing press installed in the Museum. The Museum was finally able to print its own exhibition catalogues, event programmes etc. The Museum of Ethnology presented numerous temporary exhibitions at two permanent outposts – Matzen Castle and the former Carthusian monastery at Gaming – and in collaboration with numerous other museums. Between 1988 and 1994, a museum bus toured through Austria, presenting new thematic and/or regional exhibitions every year.
The 1990s witnessed a certain amount of turmoil, and a comprehensive renovation of the Museum could no longer be put off. The first building phase saw the cellars adapted to depots until 2001. In the course of the semi-privatisation of Austria’s federal museums, the Museum was incorporated into the museum group “Kunsthistorisches Museum mit Museum für Völkerkunde und Österreichisches Theatermuseum” in 2001. Between 2004 and 2007, the few remaining galleries open to the public – which had been renovated in the early 1990s – were closed due to the necessary renovation works. At that time, the Museum was extensively rebuilt and refurbished from the Ground Floor up to the attic: a lift for heavy objects and another one for the disabled were installed, the entire electronic and security system was replaced, an IT network was installed, the library was moved, an event space was added, some of the galleries were refurbished, the marble and stucco lustro elements of the Corps de Logis were restored, the conservation workshops re-equipped and enlarged, a new depot for textiles added, some of the galleries restored, and around 2,000 square metres of office space, research facilities, and seminar rooms created in the attic).
After the completion of the refurbishment, the Museum was reopened with the exhibition “Benin – Kings and Rituals” (9 May 2007 – 3 September 2007). One of the permanent galleries – “Divine Images, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Himalayas” was opened in 2008.
On 1 May 2012, Sabine Haag, General Director of the KHM-Museumsverband, and CFO Paul Frey appointed the Dutchman Steven Engelsman as the Museum’s new director. Under his lead, a comprehensive realignment of the Museum was planned. Following the government’s financial guarantee to fund these ambitious plans, they were presented to the public in April 2013. At the same time, the Museum was renamed “Weltmuseum Wien” and given a new corporate design. After the redesign of the permanent collection and public areas, the Weltmuseum Wien opened in late 2017. On 1 January 2018, Christian Schicklgruber was appointed as new Director of the Museum.
Black Lives Matter
As anthropologists in Austria, we stand in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other ongoing social movements seeking social justice and equality. We consider it a core responsibility in our academic and institutional work to understand, expose, and reject any form of racism, discrimination, and structural violence against vulnerable and minority groups anywhere. As the most significant anti-racist social movement in recent history unfolds in the USA, we stand against structural and everyday racism and discrimination against BIPoC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour), Roma, migrants, LGBTIQ* communities, and religious minorities in Austria and across Europe.
As public institutions, we acknowledge our discipline’s historical and ongoing entanglements in white privilege and structural racism. While de-colonizing our epistemologies and publicly speaking out against right-wing populism and racism, we commit to the affirmative inclusion of disadvantaged communities. This includes not only more collaborative forms of research and teaching, but crucially also institutional recruitment practices and the management of archival and museum collections. We urge all of us to listen closely and support the call of BiPOC for social justice and equality in the shared hope that these already long-standing efforts will transform not only our discipline but also our societies.
On the occasion of the 2019 Annual Conference of the Directors of Ethnographic Museums in German Speaking Countries in Heidelberg, the following statement has been approved and signed by the ethnographic and world cultures museums, university museums and collections, as well as the ethnography departments of composite museums.
Museum education & outreach programme, guided tours, and programme registration
+43 1 534 30-5150
Office Hours of the cultural education department (except holidays):
Mon. to Fri., 9 am till 1 pm
Curator Collection Analog and Digital Media: Film, Audio, Photography
Dr. Hanin HANNOUCH
+ 43 1 534 30-5066
Curator East Asia: China, Korea, Japan
Dr. Bettina ZORN
+43 1 534 30-5117
Curator Insular Southeast Asian Collection
ad interim Mag. Reinhard BLUMAUER
+ 43 1 534 30-5107
Curator Collection North Africa, West and Central Asia, Siberia
Dr. des. Tobias MÖRIKE
+ 43 1 534 30-5030
Curator North and Central American Collections
Gerard VAN BUSSEL
+ 43 1 534 30-5122
Curator Oceania and Australia Collection
+ 43 1 534 30-5107
Curator Collection Photography
Mag. Manfred KAUFMANN
+ 43 1 534 30-5110
Curator South America Collection
Dr. Claudia AUGUSTAT
+ 43 1 534 30-5113
Curator South-, Southeast Asian and Himalayan Collections
HR. Prof. Dr. Christian SCHICKLGRUBER
+43 1 534 30-5051
Curator Sub-Saharan Africa Collection
Mag. Nadja HAUMBERGER
+43 1 534 30-5103
Head of Archive
+ 43 1 534 30-5052
+ 43 1 534 30-5021
Head of Department Museum Education
MMag. Petra FUCHS-JEBINGER
+43 1 534 30 - 5150
Art educator / Focus Cooperations
Stella ASIIMWE, BA
Art educator / Focus Digital eduation & projects
Mag. Irina EDER
Art education / Focus Kids, Schools and Family
Mela MARESCH, BA
Art Education Team
Muhammet Ali BAS
Mag. Lucia CZERNIN
Lea NAGEL, MA
Pia RAZENBERGER, BA MA (on maternity leave)
Salome RITTERBAND, BA MA (on maternity leave)
Mara THOM, BA
Office of the Director/Administration
+43 1 534 30 5052
Conservation Department and Technical Services
Mag. Florian Gerhard RAINER
+43 1 534 30 5116
Development & Events
Mag. Bärbel HOLAUS-HEINTSCHEL
+43 1 525 24-4035
+ 43 1 534 30-5116
Nina AUINGER-SUTTERLÜTY, MAS
Mag. Sarah AISTLEITNER
T +43 1 525 24-4021
oder +43 1 525 24-4025
Program & Event Coordination
Mag. Anna Maria RESCH, E.MA
+43 1 534 30-5123
+43 1 525 24-4024
Tina Maria SEYFRIED
+43 1 534 30-5111
+43 1 525 24-4030
Rights & Reproduction
The Reproduction Department of the KHM-Museumsverband is responsible for all photo requests as well as reproduction and recording permits concerning the Weltmuseum Wien. We offer both digital and analog photo material from all collections of the KHM-Museumsverband. Moreover, we authorise, organise, and supervise all photo, television, video, and film recordings on museum premises.
All pictures and text as well as photographic and audio material are protected by copyright and may not be reproduced, copied, altered or otherwise used without the express consent of the KHM-Museumsverband.
Picture fees are based on the request medium, type, volume, and term of usage, and need to be agreed upon in advance.
Jobs at the Museum
If you are interested in voluntary work for the Weltmuseum Wien, unpaid internships for your academic studies in social and cultural anthropology, and guest researcher positions, please send your application to:
The Weltmuseum Wien publishes a report on its extensive range of activities every year. Find out more about the academic work of our curators and conservators, the exhibitions of the year, and all our projects realised in the fields of cultural communication, marketing, sponsoring & fundraising, and the Weltmuseum Wien Friends.