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The Ethnology Department collects, maintains, exhibits, and studies all items of material, spiritual, and social culture of the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It has a rich collection of material which is stored or arranged into thematic exhibitions. It has two permanent exhibition and organises several thematic shows every year.
The gathering of ethnological material started when the National Museum was founded in 1888, with the purchase of valuable ethnological items (for instance, national costumes). Just after the founding, the department was integrated into the Archaeology Department, but broke off again four years later. As of 1913, the department has been housed in the museum's Ethnology Pavilion, whose interior imitates that of a traditional Bosnian urban house.