Johann Jacobs Museum

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On November 11, 1984, Klaus J. Jacobs opened a new museum in Zurich: the Jacobs Suchard Museum. After Jacobs Suchard was sold to Philip Morris in 1990, the Jacobs Foundation took possession of the holdings of the museum, now called the Johann Jacobs Museum, which is still its name today. It was named after Johann Jacobs (1869–1958), the great-uncle of the museum’s founder, who in 1895 opened a specialty shop in Bremen selling “Caffee, Thee, Cacao, Chocoladen und Biscuits.” That marked the beginning of what would become the successful Jacobs coffee empire.

From Coffee to Global Trade Routes

In the course of the renovation of Jacobs Haus (from 2011 to 2013), and under the leadership of it’s new director Roger Martin Buergel, the Johann Jacobs Museum, which had been known as a coffee museum, took on a new focus. Since 2013, it has been dedicated to exploring and depicting the complex history of global trade routes – with a particular emphasis on coffee and cocoa, but also including such related goods as oil, rubber, diamonds, cotton and tobacco, which are among the basic commodities of modern life.

Conceptually, the Johann Jacobs Museum is thus venturing into new territory, for while there is a host of museums for trade, ethnology, colonial history and European and extra-European art, there is (as yet) no museum that is devoted exclusively to the dramatic interconnections of our global environment.

Instead of simply presenting a series of exhibitions, the newly revamped Johann Jacobs Museum develops its exhibitions in cooperation with a variety of groups that bring their own experiences and interests to the topics at hand.

This is a groundbreaking approach. While many museums are devoted to the topics of trade, colonial history and European and non-European art, there is no other that focuses specifically on shedding light on the complex network of ties that characterizes our globalized world.