Applied arts collection

The proposal to establish a museum of applied arts in Brno was adopted by the general assembly of the Moravian Applied Arts Association on 8 May 1873, with collecting established as the chief objective of the museum. The collections were divided into five sections: applied arts, building, mechanical technology, chemical technology and the textile industry. The first items were purchased at the World Exhibition in Vienna and displayed on the premises of the applied arts association, in today's Moravské náměstí Square. The museum was formally opened on 2 December 1873, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the accession to power of Emperor Francis Joseph I. The construction of an independent museum building was initiated in 1882, to designs drawn up by Johann G. Schön, the museum director.

The opening of the museum building in today's Husova Street on 17 February 1883 marked a turning point in the museum's history. It enabled both the expansion of the collections and better presentation of them. Newly acquired items were catalogued into two departments, art and technology. The art collection quickly expanded with acquisitions of traditional arts and crafts (porcelain, ceramic, glass, textile, products of wood, metal, leather, ivory, gold and silver), examples of contemporaneous mass production (products of Moravian, Austrian and German porcelain factories, glassworks and textile factories) and free art (medieval plate painting and sculpture). A third of the items were donated by rich patrons and by industrial enterprises.

August Prokop, the new museum director, outlined a new purchase policy focusing, in the main, on the renaissance period. At the time he managed to obtain series of Czech, German and Venetian glass, Vienna and Meissen porcelain, Moravian, German, French and Dutch ceramic and Oriental art, all of it from the 16th-18th centuries. The collection was supplemented with historical and contemporary textiles.

When Director Julius Leisching took over, acquisition policy changed. He set up a special account for the purchase of new items and declined to distinguish between free and applied arts. He also began to collect folk art and acquired a number of precious items in this category. Leisching remained dedicated to collecting during his travels in Austria and Germany. Under his management, the museum collections were expanded by series of Czech and Venetian glass, medieval furniture from Tyrol, medieval woodcuts, Italian and Spanish majolica, Meissen and Vienna porcelain of the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as by Venetian and Dutch lace. He also purchased specimens of German stoneware and faience from Galicia. The museum bought a series of art nouveau objects at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900.

Times became difficult for museums of applied arts after the First World War. The interwar period was marked by general stagnation, chaos and a minimum of purchases. The only acquisition worthy of note in the 1930's was the purchase of artworks from the Arnold Skutezky estate. This involved Vienna, Meissen and Berlin porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1950's, the Otakar Vaňura collection was acquired: china, renaissance majolica, Dutch and French faience from the 17th and 18th centuries and German and Vienna porcelain from the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition, a series of historical clothing was purchased.

When the Moravian Gallery in Brno was established in 1961, the quality of museum work improved and the collections were built systematically, which led to their further enhancement and expansion.