The MAKK is Cologne’s second oldest museum. Originally called Kunstgewerbe Museum, it was founded in 1888 on the initiative of certain citizens.

The museum’s comprehensive collections are based on outstanding patronage. Including collections donated by the scholars and collectors Ferdinand Franz Wallraf (1748 - 1824) and Matthias Joseph de Noël (1782-1849), the historical core of the museum’s collections rapidly grew through large, high-quality donations, made predominantly by citizens of Cologne. From the beginning to the present, dedicated collectors and donators have shaped both the museum’s lively history and distinct character.

Initially, the museum was located ‘An der Rechtschule’, in a school for the deaf-mute and later, from 1900, in its own building at Hansaring, a prestigious neo-Gothic structure designed by the architect Brantzky. In the early 20th century, the museum’s collections were restructured, resulting in the foundation of the East Asian Museum in 1913. From 1927 to 1932, further parts of the collections were rehoused in the Stadtmuseum, in the Museum Schnütgen and in the Wallraf-Richartz Museum.

During WWII, the museum building at Hansaring was destroyed but the collections could be salvaged almost entirely. They first found a temporary home in the Eigelsteintorburg and were then rehoused in the Romantic Overstolzenhaus on Rheingasse, where they remained for 25 years (from 1961-1986). Since 1989, the museum has been back in the centre of Cologne, in the building designed by Rudolf Schwarz in 1957.

As a visible sign of a new beginning and a new era, with its relocation, the museum also received a new name: The Museum of Applied Arts. Since 1989, after a break of almost 50 years, the museum has again been showing a permanent exhibition, featuring a rich and world-famous collection of arts and crafts. The permanent collection is complemented by the ‘Art + Design in Dialogue’design section, which was reopened in 2008 and features a unique exhibition concept where international design is juxtaposed with fine art. The new ‘MAKK Kunst und Design’logo was established in 2011.