After starting their activities in East Africa from 1887, the Missionary Benedictines sent back everyday culture objects from areas such as household, food procurement, handicrafts and music to start the Africa collection at St. Ottilien.
Items from the mission field in South Africa supplemented the East African exhibits from the 1920ies. A collection of Makonde woodcarvings (Tanzania) is one of the most recent parts of the collection.
Besides the ethnological objects, a natural history collection was built up whose zoological specimens are well preserved; from the botanical collection, only a few items remain.
The expansion of the St. Ottilien mission from 1909 added numerous works of art and objects from the vanishing old Korean culture to the museum's Korea collection.
Today, the inventory has around 5.000 objects; 1.300 of them are on display in a permanent exhibition on three levels. Small thematic special exhibitions present objects from the depository; the object in focus introduces details of varying objects of the permanent exhibition.
In the basement, silent films produced by Archabbot Norbert Weber (1870 - 1956) and Fr. Nikolaus von Holzen (1890 - 1976) from the 1920ies with everyday scenes from Africa and Korea are presented; due to their ethnological importance, these films were shown around 1927 as well in the Munich Museum of Ethnology (today: Museum 5 Continents).
As a missionary collection, the museum as well provides the background and historical development of the St. Ottilien mission to the present day.