Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne
Discovering foreign cultures, breaking down prejudices
The only museum in North Rhine-Westphalia entirely dedicated to ethnology presents the peoples of the world and their customs and characteristics. It helps to be able to imagine yourself in other worlds. The holdings of 65,000 exhibits include an enormous Indonesian rice store from the island of Sulawesi as well as many items of clothing and art and cultural objects.
A friendly greeting from people of foreign cultures is just the beginning of a tour of the the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum before heading off on a themed expedition around the globe. Introducing the peoples of the world in the “Prologue” is as much part of the varied programme as saying goodbye to the visitors in the “Epilogue”. In nine different thematic areas, this establishment manages to create an encounter with foreign cultures that breaks down prejudices and opens up new horizons in a modern way.
Visitors are already transported to another world when they see the 7.5 metre high rice store from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, which has been the symbol of the museum for many years. The wooden rice store once supplied the native inhabitants of the island. The detailed decorations demonstrate the importance and craftsmanship with which the building was made.
Following this, there are 3,600 square metres of exhibition space with various ways of life to explore. Over 65,000 exhibits and 100,000 ethnographic photographs help visitors to understand the similarities and differences between peoples and cultures. The dynamic sequence of individual chapters – as opposed to strict organisation according to geographical regions – is the unique feature of the only state museum in North Rhine-Westphalia dedicated to the study of ethnology.
Items of clothing from Africa, Oceania and Europe are just as much part of the holdings as furniture and art and cultural artefacts. The cornerstone of the collection is the legacy of Cologne geographer and ethnologist, Wilhelm Joest, who lived from 1852 to 1897. He left around 3,500 ethnographic objects from all over the world to his sister Adele. She financed the building of the first museum in the Südstadt district of Cologne in his memory.
Today, visitors can find the museum on Cäcilienstrasse in Cologne’s old town. It is located in the cultural quarter at Neumarkt together with Museum Schnütgen, which can also be visited on a day trip.