Kulturama – Museum of Mankind

Kulturama is an interactive museum, demonstrating the history of mankind and explaining how the body works through dozens of colorful, interactive displays, artifacts, and fun activities for kids. The topics range from skeletons, to cell division, to how the brain works, to the five senses and much, much more. We learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.

This museum works on two levels: educational and entertaining. Many displays are self-explanatory, with hands-on activities or games that are both fun and slightly educational. Other displays are heavier on the science and work best with an adult talking the child through the displays, an excellent extension to topics learned in books or at school. At first I thought it would be better for older children, but later, we found so many activities that younger children would enjoy. I would recommend this for any child from kindergarten on up, but especially for those interested in the human body and science.

Note: I’m giving away 5 sets of tickets to Kulturama on the MomsTotsZurich Facebook page. Go there to enter for your chance to win. Contest ends Friday 7 April 2017 18:00 CET.

Location:   Zurich city
Address: Englischviertelstrasse 9, 8032 Zürich
Car: No car park at museum, only blue zone street parking. Nearest car park at Parkhaus Hohe Promenade (Rämistrasse 22A, 8001 Zürich), a 10 min walk to museum.
Train: ~12 mins from Zurich HB, Tram 3 or 8 to Hottingerplatz or Tram 15 to Englischviertelstrasse
Open: Tues – Sun 13:00 to 17:00, Closed Mondays.
Special exhibit “How we learn” open only Sat and Sun.
Price: Adult CHF 12, Child aged 6 to 16 CHF 8, children under 6 free
covered by Swiss Museum Pass and ZürichCARD
Services: picnic room, no cafe, lockers available, strollers ok, elevator access
More info: www.kulturama.ch

Overview

The museum has four floors of exhibits and another exhibit in the building next door. The two bottom floors are more informational and observational, with most everything behind glass. The upper two floors are very hands-on and interactive. To keep the kids happy, I recommend starting on the upper two floors unless you have a specific educational goal to accomplish.

A quick overview now, with more details and pics below.

  • Floor -2 focuses on the history of mankind and evolution, with many fossils, bones, and cultural artifacts from a variety of time periods from 500 million years ago to modern history.
  • Floor -1 focuses on the timeline of human body, with topics like cell division, reproduction, human organs, skeletons, etc.
  • Floor 1 currently has a “Sniffer nose” exhibit with dozens of things to smell and lots of information about difficult kids of smells. Lots of laughs on this floor.
  • Floor 2 is a “adventure path” with lots of activities related to the human body and five senses. Kids could spend a lot of time here.
  • Next door is the exhibition titled “How we learn,” which has more interactive exhibits about how the brain works. We loved the games in this room.

Language

Although the informational text through the museum is in German, the museum provides handouts in English (and French) and they are working to add more English text to the exhibits in the future. Also, many of the displays and activities are self-explanatory, so I think a non-German speaker could still find lots of enjoy here. Plus many of the staff speak English and I found them quite friendly and helpful when we had questions. But if your older children understand German and like reading, the museum has a wealth of knowledge to be had through the info signs accompanying the exhibits.

Sensitive Topics

Some of the topics in this museum can be confusing, disturbing or emotional for some children. Make sure you are prepared to discuss reproduction, death and evolution as these themes prominent in some of the displays. We probably came away with more questions than answers.

Smell Exhibit – 1st Floor

This temporary “Sniffer Nose” aka “Schnupfernase” exhibit made us laugh. There were probably at least 100 different smells to try, with guessing games like the ones shown below.

Some of the smells were disgusting, like the sweat smells on the left. One is relaxed sweat, one is stressed sweat. Both were horrible! On the right, kids could try out different shaped noses.

A house full of smells.

Lots of scientific info about smell on the signboards, but not required reading to enjoy the exhibit.

“Adventure Path” aka Erlebnispfad – Top Floor

This floor is the most interactive, with many activities about the five senses and other topics.

This sliced up body is a little disturbing. I found it fascinating, my kids were a little grossed out.

We loved listening to different heartbeats, some super slow like a hibernating hedgehog, some very fast like a cat, and one ridiculously fast like a bat. In a drawer below, you can pull out a stethoscope and listen to your own heartbeat.

On the left, you can look at a bunch of x-rays, this one showing a pacemaker. On the right, optical illusions.

The whole room is filled with drawers that hide tons of activities. At first we weren’t sure we were allowed to open them. But we found a sign that told the rules of the room and you are encouraged to use anything in the drawers, just don’t break it. Many have things to touch. Some have activities and games. There are so many drawers, you couldn’t possibly do everything, but we tried.

On the left, a drawer filled with animal pelts and a chart asking you to guess which pelt belongs to which animal. There was a whole drawer of snake skin, from enormous snakes. Some items are connected to security tags so you can’t walk away with them.

Some of the drawers are labeled “especially for little kids” and those have toys and games, like the one of the left where you put your hand in the compartment and try to guess what’s inside. On the right, there are cave drawings and you try to spot the differences. Another drawer had wooden food showing what cavemen ate. Another drawer had dinosaur figures to play with.

How We Learn Exhibit – Next Door

This exhibit focuses on how we learn, particularly on how the brain works. It’s a small room as shown below, but packed with activities, puzzles and games that demonstrate different aspects of how the brain functions. We spent an hour in this room alone and I had to drag my kids away at closing time.

Note: This exhibit is only open Saturdays and Sundays, same time at the regular museum.

On the left, you try to match the child’s age with the developmental stage in different categories: speech, social, motor, cognitive. It was funny to see my kids guess when a baby could laugh or recognize it’s mother or string a sentence together. On the right, looking at brain cells under a microscope.

My kids loved trying to outsmart the game designer or compete with each other on puzzles.

Each bag below is filled with a different weight. You try to match the animal to the weight of their brain, with some surprising results.

Human Body Development, Birth to Death – Lower Floor

This exhibit shows the development of the human body from a single cell to birth to adulthood to death (not gruesome, just skeletons).

One of the first things you’ll see upon entering this room is the baby fetuses and reproduction information, so be prepared for some interesting questions. Both my kids thought this was gross, especially the uterus models, and one got quite sad and emotional. We’ve already discussed this topic a lot at home, but seeing life-sized models made it more real and in some ways confusing.

Some crazy tidbits along the way, like these surprisingly similar embryos from different species.

Most of the displays on this floor are behind glass, as on the left. But some are hand-on like on the left, where we could touch different bones and guess where they belong in the body.

We loved this Pantone color chart of skin color, showing that people aren’t just black and white. We had fun comparing our skin to the chart, realizing how different our coloring is from each other and how much variation there was across humanity.

Lots of skeletons in this room, animal and human, some in funny positions. We have cats as pets, so we liked comparing the cat skeletons to our own.

Timeline of Mankind, Evolution & Culture – Bottom Floor

The bottom floor has an evolution timeline wrapped around the walls, showing the progression of plant life, invertebrates and vertebrates, with accompanying fossils in the display cases.

Here’s some detail of the evolution wall. I think it would have been more interesting for my kids if they were studying this in school or we had something in particular we wanted to look at. As it was, this was near the end of our visit and my kids had museum fatigue.

Some cultural artifacts.

Accessibility

The museum has an elevator so you can access all the floors without taking the stairs. I noticed that most people left their strollers near the entrance but all the floors were manageable with a stroller.

Services

The museum doesn’t have its own cafe, but there is a large picnic area with tables on the main floor with a play corner for small children. There is a drink vending machine and self-service coffee machine.

Getting There

The museum is located at Englischviertelstrasse 9, 8032 Zürich, which is a bit west of the city center, near the Zurich Kunsthaus. It is best accessed by public transportation because there isn’t a car park next to the museum.

By public transport: From Zurich main station, take Tram 3 to Hottingerplatz. The museum is a less than a block away from the tram stop as shown in the map below.

By car: There is no car park at the museum, only blue zone street parking, limited to 1hr30. If you need to park longer, the closest car park is Parkhaus Hohe Promenade (Rämistrasse 22A, 8001 Zürich), which is a 10 min walk from the museum as shown below.

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9 comments

  1. This sounds like a great place for older kids, with lots of visuals and sensory ways to learn theoretical concepts. I love the smell exhibit! Some of the exhibits would be fun for my 3-year-old too!

  2. What an insightful post, love the pictures too! Sounds like some of the floors might be interesting even for younger kids. Found scary how all the embryos look similar, evolution at its best. Definitely on the list, thank you!

  3. I have never heard of that museum, so thank you for this insightful post! I might take Colin during spring break. He recently started asking questions about babies – is that part being covered, too?

    The sliced up body sure looks scary!

    1. Yes, there is lots of info about reproduction and models of fetuses at different stages of growth. Not too much info about the fertilization process as I remember.

  4. The first part reminds me of Sensorium, which we recently visited. My older son´d definitely enjoy the last part, since he is now very interested in the ancient Egypt.

  5. Looks like some great interactive exhibits that kids would like! Especially the “smell” one! I might skip some of those other floors with my younger son and just do the smell exhibit and the dinosaur bones!

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