Geneva Museum of Ethnography – Carl-Vogt - History and Facts | History Hit

Geneva Museum of Ethnography – Carl-Vogt

Geneva, Switzerland

The Geneva Museum of Ethnography in Boulevard Carl-Vogt exhibits historic items from around the world and a range of civilisations.

Peta Stamper

25 Mar 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Geneva Museum of Ethnography – Carl-Vogt

The Geneva Museum of Ethnography, or MEG, includes a large collection of objects from across the world and in 2017 won the prestigious European Museum of the Year Award.

Geneva Museum of Ethnography history

The Geneva Museum of Ethnography, founded in 1901 by the University of Geneva’s anthropology professor, Eugene Pittard, was first housed in Mon Repos villa. Pittard assembled both public and private collections including the ethnographic collections of the Archaeological and historical museums in Geneva. He was a keen anthropologist who argued the study of humans should look beyond biology, and refuted the Nazis’ claim of a ‘pure breed’ of people.

In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, the MEG was moved to the disused buildings of the Mail primary school in boulevard Carl Vogt. Vogt, a 19th century German scientist who wrote prolifically on physiology and geology, was involved in Swiss politics. His approach to physiology, however, contrasted to Pittard; he believed that the races evolved separately and in a hierarchy. The museum opened to the public in 1947, sharing the space with the Anthropology department of the Geneva University.

From 1980, the city negotiated where to build a new museum to hold the collections, ultimately deciding to build a new building on the Carl Vogt site. In 2014, the MEG’s new pagoda-shaped building opened after four years of construction. Designed with a mixture of Indonesian house design and modernism, the museum’s bold grey-white architecture celebrates a fusion of global cultures.

Geneva Museum of Ethnography today

Today, Geneva Museum of Ethnography hosts a popular permanent exhibition, ‘Archives of human diversity’, that displays over a thousand objects from over five continents. Open from Tuesday to Sunday, alongside its permanent collection visitors can expect to enjoy temporary exhibitions, concerts, films, workshops, online talks and an impressive library where you can listen to music from across the world.

The museum is currently undergoing consultations to change its name as a symbolic part of its decolonial process, acknowledging the collections’ colonial origins and the scientific racism that underpinned much of 19th century and early 20th century anthropology.

Getting to Geneva Museum of Ethnography

Located in the lively Jonction district of Geneva, you can reach the MEG via public transport by catching the bus lines 2, 19, 1 or 35 to stop Musée d’ethnographie or École-Médecine, from which it is a 250m walk. Nearby parking includes the Uni-Mail.