Anthropology is the science of human behavior: it helps us understand cultures past and present, to pay attention to what our ancestors did and how they learned to do it. Anthropology museums focus on the culture, language, and customs of humanity, tell our collective story. So, if you’re traveling the world, be sure to check out these incredible anthropology museums to learn more about the human experience!
The National Museum of Anthropology, Manila, Philippines
The National Museum of Anthropology is located in the heart of Manila; in Agrifina Circle in Rizal Park, which is where most of Manila’s largest museums stand. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm between Tuesdays and Sundays. It welcomes guests who are interested in learning about the history of the Philippines and the people inhabiting the islands.
One of its most famous exhibits is the “San Diego”, which showcases the San Diego ship’s wreckage. It shows many details about how maritime trade was conducted in the area, for over five centuries. You can also discover the Filipinos’ rich cultural heritage by viewing cultural artifacts and art from thousands of years ago up to recent history.
National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka, Japan
One of the world’s best Anthropology Museums is the National Museum of Ethnology; one of Japan’s largest institutes in the academic disciplines of humanities. It was established in 1974 with the goal of to research and preserve items of value; opened for public view in 1977. It is located in Suita, Osaka and you can visit it on Thursdays to Tuesdays from 10 am to 5 pm. The museum is closed on Wednesdays.
If you are interested in East Asian and Japanese culture, this is the museum for you! Among the exhibits, you can see artifacts from the Jōmon period, which was between 14,000 and 300 B.C. There are many images and films on display to help you imagine how the people lived. Additionally, you are able to walk through Japanese life through the centuries as you go through the museum!
Also, if you’re in Osaka in spring or autumn, be sure to check their events out! During the two seasons, they have thematic exhibits that relate to customs celebrating spring or fall.
Museum of Man, San Diego, California, USA
The San Diego Museum of Man is located in Balboa Park, San Diego, and it is part of the California Quadrillage. It was built for the Panama-California Exhibition in 1915 and functioned as a less defined science museum. Its name was changed to the Museum of Man in 1942 in order to emphasize its theme of anthropology. Since then, the museum has been welcoming interested viewers to show them how amazing human evolution and culture is.
The Museum of Man is a kid-friendly environment, most exhibits welcome children and adults alike! You can take a look at an amazing collection of ancient Egyptian and Native American artifacts. Here, you can learn about mummification and various customs of humanity. This also includes beer brewing which has been part of our lives for centuries. The Museum of Man is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. Additionally, a general admission ticket gives you access to nearly every exhibit!
Five Continents Museum, Munich, Germany
Originally named the Bavarian Museum of Ethnology, the Five Continents Museum was constructed in 1859-1865 and opened to the public in 1868. Although its history dates back for so long, the collection’s history is even longer! The renowned Bavarian Wittelsbach Dynasty started collecting artifacts from all around the world much earlier.
The anthropology museum was renamed “Five Continents Museum” because it focuses on artifacts and works of art from every continent’s civilizations. The museum showcases exhibits such as the North American natives’ customs and everyday tools. Here, you can take a look at the oldest surviving kayak and a teepee, East Asian statues of deities, body jewelry, and masks from Africa and more. Visit this museum from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm from Tuesdays to Sundays!
Berndt Museum of Anthropology, Perth, Australia
The Berndt Museum of Anthropology is an anthropological museum located in Perth, Western Australia. It was founded by Ronald and Catherine Berndt in 1976; created to honor and preserve the art and artifacts of the indigenous people of Australia. The museum houses 12,000 objects and over 34,000 pictures, and it is the most important museum of Aboriginal art. Of course, it doesn’t only focus on Australian artifacts. It actually has a substantial Papua New Guinean and Asian collection too!
Also, the most important works you can take a look at our part of the Yirrkala Drawings collection. This collection showcases the beautiful art style and myths of Aboriginal peoples of Australia.
Professors Catherine and Ronald Berndt also collected an amazing number of photographs about the way the Aboriginals lived between 1946 to 1947. These unique photos are part of the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Australian Register. If you’re interested in the lives of the secluded and unique Aboriginals, this is the museum to visit! It is open from 9 am to 5 pm on workdays and closed on weekends.
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City, Mexico
The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is considered a Mexican national treasure. It holds value and showcases the interesting identity of the country’s inhabitants. Located between Paseo de la Reforma and Chapultepec Park, the building itself is a monument. Also, the building’s exhibition halls surround a courtyard with a huge pond and a vast square concrete umbrella supported by a single slender pillar.
If you’re visiting Mexico City, checking the building out is already worth it! The anthropology museum itself focuses on the native people who occupied the lands, modern-day Mexico. Some exhibits showcase the colonization and eradication of these tribes and cultures as well. Also, here, you can discover the ancient cultures of the Mayas, Aztecs, Incans and many more. After viewing this exhibit, follow the mixed and complicated cultures that blossomed under the colonizers’ rule.
Additionally, you can see many items from these tribes’ day-to-day lives and even replicas of historically significant pieces. The museum welcomes you from Tuesday to Sunday between 9 am and 7 pm.
Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, Cambridge, UK
The Museum of Archeology and Anthropology was founded in 1884; located on the Downing Street side of the University of Cambridge. At first, the museum’s collection consisted of local antiquities and only a few objects from different cultures. However, over the years the collections grew to a very impressive degree! The museum holds archaeological finds from every part of the inhabited world.
You can see items found during excavations in areas like Jericho and Jordan; one of the oldest continually occupied living spaces. If you are interested in the cultures and customs of major civilizations, this is the museum for you! You can see material from Fiji, collected by Captain James Cook.
Also, here you can discover treasures of the British Isles. For example, there is the bronze sculptures and remnants of the Celtic culture which is mostly gone today. You can visit the museum from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. It’s also open on Sundays from 12 pm to 4:30 pm.
Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Kunstkamera, St. Petersburg, Russia
The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography is part of the large Kunstkamera, which is a building in St. Petersburg that hosts two museums. The Kunstkamera was established by Peter the Great. The project was finished in 1727. However, in the 1830s, the collection had over 2 million items. It then became necessary to organize them by thematically in some way.
Thus, the Kunstkamera’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography was established. The museum is also known for its gruesome and terrifying exhibits; the heads of Willem Mons and Anna Mons, preparations of a child’s arm and leg, human and animal fetuses, two-headed skeletons and much more.
However, if you aren’t looking for horror, you can have a look at exhibits that hold a collection of artifacts. They showcase masks, day-to-day tools, and religious objects. You can visit the museum from 10 am to 6 pm between Tuesday and Sunday!
Musée du quai Branly, Paris, France
Paris is known for its incredible museums, and one of its most amazing selection is the Musée du Quai Branly; located near Pont de L’Alma, close to the Eiffel Tower. It’s a relatively new museum; opened in 2006 as an effort to commemorate and offer respect to art and culture from all around the world. French intellectuals helped establish the museum under the motto “the masterpieces of the entire world are born free and equal.”
The museum features gorgeous pieces of art from Asia, Oceania, Africa, and the Americas. It also has a collection of over 2 million individual objects! If you visit the anthropological museum, you will learn about funeral offerings in Taiwan, ethnographic objects from Africa, many objects gathered from the French colonies in North America.
If you’re planning to go, make sure to have a look at the program before. The museum also actively hosts temporary exhibitions and cultural events during festivals and celebrations. Additionally, they organize off-site tours and workshops to help you learn about these different cultures. You can visit this gorgeous museum daily from 10:30 am to 7 pm!
Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver, Canada
One of the most famous anthropology museums, the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia attracts many visitors daily! The now world-famous place had humble beginnings in 1927 when the Frank Burnett collection was displayed at UBC. Since then, the amazing museum received an equally awe-inspiring building and amassed over 500,000 pieces from many cultures on Earth.
The goal of the museum is to showcase the multiversity and multiculturality of Canada, and the world. On top of these amazing objects, some of which date back to centuries B.C, you can participate in cultural programs. These also include the celebration of Diwali, Sound House, a poetry night, and off-site tours organized by the Museum of Anthropology.
Permanent exhibits include the Multiversity Gallery and the Bill Reid Rotunda, where you can view artworks and sculptures. The museum welcomes you from 10 am to 5 pm daily and 10 am to 9 pm on Thursdays. So be sure to check it out if you’re in Vancouver!