History of the Ethnological Institute goes back to the beginning of the 20th century and it is closely connected to the project Folk Song in Austria (since 1905) and to the State Institute for Folk Song (since 1919). The history of the institute continues within the Academy of Sciences since 1953, when the former State Institute for Folk Song became Department for Folk Song and the Department for Ethnography was established. In 1954, both departments were united to form the Institute for Ethnography and Folklore Studies which, since 1999, bears the name Ethnological Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
The Ethnological Institute pursues both the basic and applied research in the field of ethnology and in the related fields. Ethnological Institute pursues scientific research, provides information services, methodological assistance and expert analyses. Ethnological Institute publishes scholarly publications, journals, collections of texts, and organizes conferences and seminars. The Institute manages various collections, catalogues them, and publishes bibliographies and indexes of sources.
The basic research focuses on both material and intangible traditional culture, and the issues of social relations, their contemporary state as well as in the historical perspective. The Ethnological Institute cooperates with universities on lectures and training of scholars.
With its activity Ethnological Institute contributes to understanding of the ways of life and culture of various national, social, and ethnic groups and minorities in the Czech Republic and abroad.
The Ethnological Institute comprises seats in Prague and Brno, the departments of historical ethnology, ethnical studies, ethnomusicology, and scientific information.