After our guided tour of the main Vatican museums, we continued our day with other museums in the papal city. The first of these was the Ethnological Museum.
What is the Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi?
The Vatican Ethnological Museum exhibits objects that allow us to learn about the cultural and artistic traditions of all peoples.
The idea was born in 1925 when Pope Pius XI organized a great Vatican exhibition. For this event, the Vatican received tens of thousands of works of art from all over the world.
At the end of the exhibition, 40,000 pieces were permanently donated to the Vatican. Subsequently, a similar amount was recovered. Today the Ethnological Museum has 80,000 pieces.
This is an extraordinary amount. But, don’t expect to see them all. Indeed, there is a rotation of art pieces and a small part is visible at the same time. Moreover, when you are in the museum, you will see on the floor a part of the archives inaccessible to the public which contain the rest of the works.
Where is the Ethnological Museum in the Vatican?
The Ethnological Museum is a small section of the Vatican Museums. After seeing the Sistine Chapel, we continued on our way until we came upon the ethnological museum. It was just before the staircase that goes up to the philatelic and numismatic museum.
There are no signs announcing it, but when you see the first works, you immediately understand that you are in the ethnological museum.
What is the entrance fee to the museum?
Admission to the Ethnological Museum is included in the price of your Vatican Museums ticket. You do not have to pay anything extra.
As a reminder, the full price of a single visit to the Vatican Museums is €17. Please note that the price may have changed since I wrote this article.
How long does the visit last?
The tour of the Vatican Ethnological Museum is quick. Allow 5-10 minutes if you want to look briefly at the works and no more than 30 minutes if you want to linger over many of the objects on display.
Highlights of the Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi
- Many cultures represented: Polynesian, Indian, Aztec…
- A great variety of art pieces: sculptures, everyday objects, costumes…
- Few people in this part of the museums, so the visit is calm and pleasant.
- This museum is spacious with large areas.
Limitations of the Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi
- 80,000 art pieces owned and less than 1% are visible in the museum, so you see very few works and they are all a bit mixed up.
- There is a lack of information about the art pieces, as in most museums and monuments in Rome.
- Many of the works on display were under renovation and only visible from a distance.
Our opinion on the Vatican Ethnological Museum
In conclusion, the ethnological museum leaves me with a rather frustrating feeling.
The works and the potential of the museum are extraordinary. In one place, you see authentic period objects from all the most famous cultures that have existed in the World. If the entire collection were displayed and supplemented with background information, it would take you for days to discover it.
Unfortunately, there are few objects and few explanations. So you wander around, look at the few visible objects for several minutes and quickly move on. It’s a shame.
Take the time to visit the ethnological museum and don’t expect anything grand.
Nevertheless, your Vatican tickets cost a nominal fee and this museum is not supposed to be the highlight of the show. The Sistine Chapel, the Candelabra Gallery, the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Etruscan Museum and all the other places await you.