This collection exemplifying Material Culture, holds an enormous variety of objects, textiles and artefacts from all over the world. Much of the material was donated in the mid 20th century and acquired through scholarship fieldwork, principally Daryll Forde, who founded the Department of Anthropology at UCL. 

The UCL Ethnographic collections are used primarily as a teaching resource and are highly important since they are unique to universities in London, and rare within the context of UK universities. There are about 3000 artifacts in the collection, representing the areas of art, technology and material culture from a wide range of civilizations, mainly from the last several centuries but also some ancient material. This diverse and striking collection has weaponry, textiles, basketry, musical instruments, and fetish and charm objects.

There is jewellery, metalwork, ceremonial masks, Maori cloaks, shields made of dragon hide, model boats and pipes, and many other items both symbolic and utilitarian. This collection has items from as far a field as Melanesia and Haida material from the North West Coast of America.

Much of the collection is from Africa, but also funerary articles and ornate weavings from Peru. Of particular interest are the significant Kula bracelets from Papua New Guinea, rare Ashanti stools from Ghana, Inuit carved bone eye shades from early 1800's and outstanding Nasca pottery.