The Institute of Ethnology of the University of Göttingen houses one of the oldest and most important ethnographic collections in the world.
While most of the German ethnology museums were created at the turn of the 19th/20th century and ethnology first established itself as an independent discipline at the universities thereafter, the beginnings of ethnology in Göttingen trace back to the Enlightenment. Thanks to the extensive scientific contacts of the naturalist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, it was possible to obtain a South Seas collection for Göttingen that can be traced back to the famous English Captain James Cook and his scientific companions Johann Reinhold Forster and Georg Forster in the second half of the 18th century. Through one of the first alumni of the University of Göttingen, the Baron Georg Thomas von Asch from St. Petersburg, very valuable cultural artifacts of Arctic Peoples were acquired for the »Königliche Academische Museum«. These unique items form the historical core of the Ethnographic Collection and account for its international reputation.
From a present-day perspective, the collection enables an insight into the cultural and artistic creations of numerous non-European peoples. It currently comprises 17,000 ethnographica from all corners of the earth that are integrated in museum internships for teaching at the Institute. Regional focuses are the Indo-Pacific and Africa.
The collection is made available to the public with regularly held events (lectures, exhibitions, guided tours and afternoon for children) and is supported by the »Göttingen Society for Ethnology« (Göttinger Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde e.V.).