A Little Bit of Everything

24 April to 22 September 2024

A special feature of the collections in the Weltmuseum Wien is their great variety of materials. Recognizing them is sometimes child's play: a boat is made of wood, a plate of ceramic. Other materials, however, must first be examined under a microscope or with chemical analyses. Is a piece of jewelry really made of gold or brass? Is a piece of clothing made of sheep's wool or synthetic fiber?

The collections of the Weltmuseum Wien house thousands of objects that consist of or were made from a variety of materials. The special exhibition A Bit of Everything is dedicated to this material diversity of objects and its documentation in museum work.

Some objects consist of just one material, many are made of several. Some are easy to identify, such as wood or ceramics. Others can only be determined after extensive examinations, such as the fibre composition of clothing or the alloy of jewellery. It is part of a conservator’s job to correctly identify these different materials. To judge whether an object is genuine or fake, whether it is fragile, light-sensitive, or at risk of corrosion, it is necessary to know the materials it is made of. Sometimes materials also tell us about trade relations and transport routes.

In order to facilitate the search for individual materials, the Weltmuseum Wien database is based on an organized system of terms. This dictionary of synonyms, in which related expressions are arranged together, forms the starting point of this exhibition.

A Bit of Everything offers visitors a walk-in material lexicon. A selection of terms found in the Weltmuseum Wien database is sorted alphabetically. For each material term, an object has been selected as an illustrative example in the exhibition – for instance a necklace from Papua New Guinea made from plant fibres, crocodile teeth, cowries, bones, and plant seeds or an ostrich egg with an incised drawing. The presentation is supported by an accompanying booklet in which all terms and object names as well as their regional origin are listed.

The presentation was curated by Florian Rainer, object conservator and head of the Conservation Department at Weltmuseum Wien. It can be visited free of charge in the Weltmuseum Wien’s participatory exhibition space zam!

zam! is dedicated to relevant contemporary issues and works in partnership with different communities and visitors to develop, design, and present them in various formats. A Bit of Everything offers visitors insights behind the scenes of the museum’s work and the associated processes and procedures.

The Participatory Space

About the exhibition

About the exhibition

Some objects are made of merely one material, but the majority are made up of several materials. It is the job of experts to identify these correctly and document them in a database. For better searchability, an organized system of terms is used in the database. This system of terms is called a "thesaurus", the ancient Greek word for "treasure house", which is also the origin of the word "safe". Related expressions are arranged together in such a "word-treasure vault". A well thought-out division into several levels is also very helpful, similar to an identification book for plants.

For this exhibition, all terms that can be found in the Weltmuseum Wien database are sorted alphabetically. Then, for each material term, an object is selected as an example for the exhibition. This creates a walk-in materials science lexicon.


Daily (except Monday)
10 am to 6 pm
10 am to 9 pm

Weltmuseum Wien

Neue Hofburg, Heldenplatz
1010 Vienna, Austria

Free Entry
Being part of ZAM the exhibit can be visited for free.

Accompanying programme

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