The collection of Alma Karlin includes over 800 objects and more than 500 postcards bought by Alma M. Karlin (1889–1950) during her eight-year journey around the world (1919–1927). Almost half of the collection consists of zoological and botanical material, mostly corals, shells, snails, wood samples and plant fruits. The museum also keeps an herbarium made by Alma M. Karlin. The rest of the collection includes fans, Japanese polychrome woodblock prints and lacquerware, souvenirs, textiles, jewelery, miniatures, wooden figurines from Oceania, and other objects. There are over 260 objects of East Asian origin in the collection, and most of the postcards also originate from East Asia.
Alma M. Karlin, a writer and journalist, world traveler, amateur researcher, polyglot and theosophist from Celje, travelled the world between 1919 and 1927. She travelled alone, continuously, for eight years, and supported herself by working along the way – notably as a language teacher, translator and journalist writing articles for numerous European newspapers. The uniqueness of her journey places her among the greatest travelers of all time. Alma Karlin’s collection is thus inextricably intertwined with the circumstances of her journey. Although she had left home with the intention of assembling a collection, she set about it in a random way. The closest her collecting policy came to systematic collecting was in her assemblage of postcards and fans. Her collecting practice is reflected in the diversity of her collection. She acquired objects in three ways: she purchased them, received them as gifts or found them in nature.
After Alma M. Karlin’s death in 1950, her collection became the property of her heir, Thea Schreiber Gammelin, who donated it to the local museum, known as the Celje Municipal Museum at the time (it was renamed the Celje Regional Museum in 1966). The handover took place between 1957 and 1960, the objects were inventoried in 1964, and the collection was named the Alma Karlin Collection.