Tallies, Pots and Costumes

Collecting and Showcasing Europe

20 November 2015 – 4 September 2016

It was an ambitious task the fledgling Museum of Ethnology (today's Museum der Kulturen) set itself when it opened its European department in 1904. The idea was to systematically collect and document peasant artefacts from all parts of Europe. For its time this pan-European focus was a groundbreaking approach.

The European department has remained true to its principle of not only assembling collections from rural Switzerland ever since, although the curators realized from the start that covering the whole gamut of European cultural artefacts in the collections was practically out of the question. Also very early on they decided not to limit themselves to peasant and pre-industrial artefacts.

The exhibition Tallies, Pots and Costumes presents a rich array of European folk culture, focussing not only on the artefacts but also on the people who helped to build up the collections from 1904 onward. It not only allows for national comparison, the objects also provide "wondrous” accounts of the creativity of our forebears, everyday culture, work and belief, the old way of life, and moments of joy as well as grief.