Theme based presentation – people in their worlds

Taking up 3600 square metres, this permanent exhibition of the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum offers fascinating insights into the diverse cultures of the world. How do they show status? How do they treat the most basic ideas like living and dying? Why was living in a tipi so practical? Why did the Maori wear tattoos – and why have they began doing it again? What is the purpose of ancestor figures?

The exhibition is divided into two sections. The thematic complex “Grasping the World” presents the European perspective on other cultures – as reflected in travelogues, art and museums. The complex “Shaping the World” showcases different ways of life around the world.

As soon as you enter the foyer, you can marvel at the largest object in our collection: the 7.50 m high rice granary from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Made from wood, bamboo and rattan by the renowned carver Ne'Kambane in the 1930s, the granary has much to say about the identity of the local population.

The right mood for the RJM tour is created by a gamelan orchestra from Java comprising over 50 instruments. Take a seat and enjoy this unique sound experience. Would you like to play the gamelan yourself? Discover the options!

On the first floor (second floor if you are American: here and further on, we use the British form), you can learn more about the founder of our collection, Wilhelm Joest. In 1899, his sister Adele Rautenstrauch and her husband Eugen donated Joest’s private holdings to the city of Cologne. Thus began the history of the RJM.

In addition, the exposition on the first floor considers the role of ethnological museums in general: after all, what and how we show directly shapes understanding. Some highlights of the art department, too, appear on this floor: our most aesthetic and artistic exhibits invite you to learn more about their places of origin.

An installation by the artist Nando Nkrumah, set up in early 2020, explores structural racism, asking how we could stop reproducing ubiquitous racist images.

On the second floor, you will find clothing and jewellery, as well as objects dealing with faith, death and afterlife. 

We are looking forward to your visit!