New permanent exhibition in ethnological museum in Geneva

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December 4, 2014 – An archive of human diversity! The new permanent exhibition of the MEG Musée d’ethnographie de Genève officially opened on Friday, 31 October. It is prominently placed in the new building designed by the architects Graber Pulver. For the ethnographic collection, ATELIER BRÜCKNER has developed a narrative space that expresses not only its diversity but also its scope and quality. With around 80,000 objects as well as 15,000 pictorial and auditory documents, the collection is one of the largest in Switzerland.

The design is based on the idea of publicly accessible archives: In an exhibition space of around 1,000 square metres over 1,000 objects are arranged in large colour-coded showcases that correspond to the five geographical departments of the institution: Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. In addition, the ethnomusicology department is presented by means of instruments and acoustic examples. An attention-getter for each geographical department is an outstanding exhibit shown as a solitary item between the display cabinets. The objects on show are highly impressive messengers that convey the diversity of the world’s cultures by making it possible to establish and understand numerous connections and cross-references. A multi-media museum guide offers tours of the exhibition that focus on particular themes.

Visitors enter this encyclopaedic archive through a bright prologue space that prepares them for the diversity of the collection and also explains its origins. Here, the exhibits are arranged in thematic groups on a large ark-like table. They are presented as curiosities, rarities, exotica, as works of art with a market value, as ambivalent objects picked up by missionaries, as diplomatic gifts and, finally, as artefacts from scientific field research: a highly varied, multi-facetted ensemble put together to form an impressive reflection of human culture. The large-scale video installation entitled “Mer” (Sea) of the artist Ange Leccia, which is spread out behind the ensemble, endows the space with a contemplative touch.

The MEG was established in 1901, firstly in the Mon Repos villa in Geneva, where the ethnographic collections from the Archaeology Museum and the Missions Museum were brought together. Since 1941, it has been accommodated in a former school building at Boulevard Carl-Vogt 65. In terms of its dimensions and shape, the new building harmonises with the historical old building, in which the spaces for research and administration are now housed. The fact that a large part of the new building is underground – as is the area with the new permanent exhibition – enabled the creation of an open and inviting urban space right in front of the building (landscape architecture: Hager, Zurich).

Admission to the permanent exhibition is free! Opening times here on the museum’s website.

Atelier Brückner’s innovative architecture and concepts of space are truly remarkable as well.
See for yourself.