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A newly curated, contemporary presentation

What to expect

Artistic carvings from Oceania, a Japanese teahouse and sounds from around the world: the exhibitions from the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin in the Humboldt Forum offer an eclectic view into the past and present cultures of Africa, America, Asia and Oceania. Around 20,000 archaeological, ethnological and art-historical exhibits offer multiple perspectives on universal themes of humanity.

Media installations as an introduction to the exhibitions, Schaumagazin exhibition spaces filled with a varied selection of objects, areas for cultural education, spaces designed by international architects and works of contemporary art pose questions about the history of the objects and place the collections in the context of our present-day world. The first exhibition areas opened to visitors in September; the museums will be fully open to the public from summer 2022.

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West Africa

Wooden figures and masks from Cameroon, ivory objects and traditional clothing from Namibia are among the most well-known historical works from Africa to be found here in Berlin. Many objects were taken from the African continent as a consequence of colonial rule. This presentation raises pressing questions: about the societies from which the objects originate, about the circumstances under which they were collected, as well as about of the history of colonialism and its effects right up to the present day.

Oceania

In the vastness of the Pacific, the islands of Oceania appear small and isolated. For their local populations, however, the sea was never a barrier but a connected living space.
For many, it is part of their identity, even today. The boats in the Humboldt Forum bear witness to their outstanding navigational and boat-building skills.

Asia

From Chinese courtly art in a throne room designed by Pritzker-Prize-winning architect Wang Shu to reconstructions of 1,500-year-old Buddhist cave temples: contemporary architecture meets millennia-old masterpieces. Trace the fascination of religious rituals dedicated to the panoply of Indian gods, or learn about the unique ceramic tradition of Korea and the diversity of Indian miniature paintings. You can also take part in a Japanese tea ceremony in the Teahouse.

Matter(s) of Perspective

How do communities in Cameroon, Namibia and Oceania view Europe, and is there a ‘European’ view of the history and stories of these cultures? Differing perspectives are the theme of one of the first temporary exhibitions on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Photo, video and interview installations break up the usual museum presentational formats, encouraging visitors to question habitual points of view.

Collections

The Schaumagazin spaces display a broad range of objects to illustrate more than a hundred years of collection history: discover how and why objects were acquired, the perceptions of societies that arose in the process, and how the works have been reinterpreted as cultural objects, art and historical evidence.

Sounds of the World

When and why do people make music? What is music, exactly, and how is it taught and learnt? ‘Sounds of the World’ gets to the bottom of the universal language of humanity – with three-dimensional sound installations in the listening room, the phonogram archive and instruments from all over the world.

Collaborations

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin are engaging in a critical examination of the legacy of colonialism. For decades, collaboration with the objects’ communities of origin and partners from all regions of the world has been an integral part of the museums’ work. Their knowledge is enabling a reappraisal and presentation from differing perspectives, and a differentiated approach to the objects.

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Family Spaces

Hands-on stations, a specially made boat to climb over and explore in the Oceania section, media stations specially designed for children and young people on the subject of everyday racism, or computer games based on colonial history in the Africa section: the family areas offer young visitors their own custom access to the objects and their stories.

Site map

Ethnologisches Museum, 2nd floor, west wing
Museum für Asiatische Kunst, 3rd floor, west wing

Guided tours

Digital

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SMB)