Museum der Kulturen – Basel

Münsterplatz, 20 , Basel
Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 266 56 00
closed on: Mondays
Museum Type: Anthropology / ethnography

The Museum der Kulturen (Museum of Cultures) in Basel is one of the most important ethnographic museums in Europe.

The museum’s origins date back to 1849, when the first ethnographic gallery in Basel, one of the first in Europe, was opened to the public in the Museum der Stadt Basel. Subsequently renamed Museum für Völkerkunde und Schweizerisches Museum für Volkskunde (Museum of Folklore and Swiss Folklore), the museum finally got its current name in 1996.

The museum is housed in an 1849 classicist-style building designed by Swiss architect Melchior Berri (1801 – 1854), enlarged in 1917 by architects Vischer & Söhne.
Further expansion and renovation of the old building were completed in 2010 after a design by Basel-based architects Herzog & de Meuron.

Museum Kulturen Basel, Herzog & de Meuron 1

The museum’s courtyard; photo Derek Li Wan Po © Museum der Kulturen Basel.

Rather than expanding the old building horizontally, the architects added a new roof level and completely redesigned the internal layout and the circulation inside the museum. At the same time, Herzog & de Meuron lowered the existing courtyard, known as Schürhof, creating a new entrance and adding climbing plants to the court transforming it into a semi-public space. The new roof is clad with an array of hexagonal dark-green colored reflective ceramic tiles, inspired by the old city’s medieval roofing.
With a gross floor area of 68,350 square feet, the expanded building accommodates one of the largest ethnographic museums in Europe.

Museum Kulturen Basel Herzog de Meuron

A view of the iconic roof of the museum; photo Derek Li Wan Po © Museum der Kulturen Basel.

Museum Kulturen Basel, Herzog & de Meuron, ceramic roof detail

The roof is covered by hundreds of hexagonal ceramic tiles; photo Omar Lemke © Museum der Kulturen Basel.

The Museum der Kulturen holds a large ethnographic collection encompassing over 300,000 artifacts from indigenous cultures of Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Pre-Columbian Americas, the museum also has a collection of around 50,000 historical photographs.

The Museum der Kulturen organizes relevant temporary exhibitions, special events, educational programs, and guided tours.

The museum’s building includes a library, a shop, and a cafe-bistro. The museum is largely, though not completely, accessible to people with disabilities.





Interior views of the museum’s galleries; photos by Derek Li Wan Po, courtesy of Museum der Kulturen Basel, all rights reserved

Cover image by Derek Li Wan Po © Museum der Kulturen Basel.

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