The new exhibition is a departure from the usual presentation of major geographical regions in comparable museums, which gives the misleading impression of encompassing a multitude of cultures in different habitats, regions, countries and even whole continents - often over many centuries. Instead, the Cologne exhibition follows a thematic arrangement in which associated and individual themes can be approached by the visitor separately or in combination, depending on his personal interests. "People in their Worlds" is at the centre of this approach. This concept uses examples to pursue questions about ways of life across space and time. These are themes which link and affect people throughout the world, but which they pproach in their own way depending on the characteristics of their region and culture. Universal aspects of the life styles of different cultures are seen alongside each other or juxtaposed; this comparative cultural approach emphasises the equality and validity of all cultures and provides impulses for thought and stimulating dialogue. The inclusion of our own culture in this comparative approach goes some way towards putting our own viewpoint into perspective. Aspects of the familiar culture that surrounds us provide access to the individual themes: starting from this European vantage point, visitors can gain insights into other worlds.
The design of the presentation uses the media of scenography. Each theme is developed within its own room where the objects unfold their aura. The overall appearance of each room, to which the entire interior architectural design including the floor, walls and ceiling contribute, as well as the graphics and lighting, underlines the content of the themes. The partly modular character of the exhibition architecture makes it easier to change individual exhibits or groups of exhibits within the framework of the flexibly defined thematic arrangement, permitting changes in focus at any time. In this way a large number of objects, which have either not been shown for a long time or never exhibited before, can be integrated over time into the presentation. Aspects of cultural change are taken into account at as many places as possible on the tour: cultures have been encountering each other since time immemorial, they mix, adapt, draw boundaries between themselves and other cultures and undergo change; in a globalised world characterised by interconnectedness and mutual influence, this process is taking place increasingly rapidly. It is, therefore, all the more important to take aspects of cultural change into account at as many points as possible in the presentation.
Hierarchised sets of information, including both texts and pictorial representations, enable the visitor to immerse himself in individual theme areas. Special media units ‘Blickpunkte' - invite the visitor to engage with issues that are debated in our own society. In addition, the museum's specialist library provides access to 40,000 monographs and specialist journals. Children are specially catered for in the individual sections of the tour. A special ‘Junior Museum' offers young people exciting possibilities of exploration: a visit to five young protagonists at their homes in their native countries is designed to awaken curiosity about the festivities and rituals that mark the transition from girl to woman and boy to man in other parts of the world. A media room and two work rooms are available for creative work under the guidance of the museum's educational team. Events of all kinds in the multifunctional auditorium and in the foyer around the museum's largest exhibit - a rice barn from Tana Toraja - complement the theme-based presentation. They enhance the visitor's sensibility for the way other cultures see things and make the museum a place of encounter, dialogue and social participation.