The ethnographic collections illustrate the traditional and modern folk cultures in the Czech lands and in Europe.
The ethnographic sub-collection reflects the traditional, primarily rustic, material, spiritual and social culture, i.e. traditional housing, household furnishings, husbandry and crafts, folk costumes, the arts, religion, rituals, customs and music in a wide historical and geographical context.
In recent years, curators have increasingly focused on the thorough documentation of the urban environment – primarily the study of customs, traditional art and everyday life in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the documentation of ethnographically important phenomena that are unique and typical for Czech lands.
Folk clothing and textiles make up the largest collection in the department. It holds approximately 80,000 collection items, including folk costume sets, clothing and interior furnishing, special samples of folk embroidery, lace, fabrics, textile prints and rugs. The embroidered textiles from the Czech lands are exceptional and unique in Europe. The textiles intended for religious and family ceremonies are also of great value. The clothing section has a valuable set of accessories and folk jewellery.
The collection documenting the way of life and husbandry consists primarily of a set of folk furniture, numbering 1,400 pieces. There are some exceptional pieces, like a set of hand painted furniture, including chests, wardrobes and some pieces decorated with intarsia. The set of models of dwellings, illustrating types of folk architecture that are no longer in use, makes up another, traditional part of the collections. The set is complemented by the folk arts section, containing the tools of traditional workshops. Of course, there is also a valuable set of agricultural tools.
Another of the collection sections, household furnishings, is closely connected with the way of life. The collection of folk ceramics here, containing 20,000 pieces from all major regions and production centres in the Czech lands and some regions of Europe, is the most significant. Traditional toys make a special set. Among other valuable collections is that of folk art. It contains collections of traditional reverse glass painting, and a collection of woodcarving, reliefs and paintings.
Naturally, the ethnographic collections also include a large set concerning customs. The collection of nativity scenes, some of them consisting of several thousand pieces, is one of the most numerous collections, and one of the largest ones of its kind in Europe. Another attractive collection numbering 4,000 pieces gathers traditional Easter eggs.
Among the modern-day ethnographic topics, the tramping collection, numbering 8,000 items from the time of the first republic to the present, stands out as the most significant.