The Origin of the Museum
In 1875 the German priest Arnold Janssen came to Steyl and founded the Society of the Divine Word --Societas Verbi Divini (SVD), the Steyl missionaries. Here he built the Mission House St. Michael’s. In 1879 the SVD sent its first missionaries to China. It was from that country that the first artifacts came to Steyl. Missionaries were sent to several countries and the collection of articles grew, becoming the basis and starting point of today's museum.
The purpose of the collection was to give future missionaries and the visitors at that time more information about distant lands and cultures; it was a time when there was no film or television.
When Brother Berchmans, a great nature lover, returned from Brazil, he was given charge of the museum. In Brazil, he became so fascinated by butterflies that he collected unique species of butterflies and insects. In addition Brother Berchmans collected numerous kinds of animals from all over the world. Consignments, which had been travelling for months by sea and contained the most diverse items, such as masks, ancestor figurines, clothing, weapons, tapestries, crockery, stuffed animals, were all classified by the curator Brother Berchmans.
The collection expanded quickly in the course of time and the growing collection had to move twice. First it was in the Mission House, then in the printing press, but finally it deserved a building of its own. A large collection of animals from the museum of the Franciscans from Watersleyde (Sittard) came in addition.
The foundation stone for today's museum was laid in 1929 and the new building was completed in 1931. The collection was given what was then a contemporary layout, with huge floor-to-ceiling display cases. The collection of butterflies and insects was given its own insect cabinet. The Mission Museum was officially inaugurated on Sunday, 1st February 1931. The following day's Nieuwe Venlosche Courant gave an excited report and made the following commendation: “There is central heating in the museum and the lighting is perfect."
Unique about the museum is that since the death of Brother Berchmans in 1934 the arrangement of the collection has never been changed.