Although the departments of Archaeology, History and Ethnography were initially supposed to be created in the Azerbaijan State Museum (the head was Y.A.Pakhomov) in accordance with the first “Regulation” of the museum-archive (Muzarxiv) adopted in 1920 and ethnographic materials obtained from different sources were collected in the department, the fundamental activities commenced following the adoption of the new “Resolution” of the Museum in 1925 and ethnographic expeditions organized to Ganja and Nukha (Sheki), including Gurtgashen (Gabala), Vartashen (Oghuz) and Vardanli during 1925-1926. As a result of these visits, 155 exhibits were brought to the subdivision of Ethnography; according to the information from 1928, there were 606 ethnographic materials in the repository of the subdivision that was the predecessor of present-day Ethnographic Fund, of which the first exhibit was registered in 1926. In the same year, the department of History-Ethnography began to assemble materials in a bid to compile the ethnographic map of Azerbaijan. In 1929, after the reconstruction started in the previous year and the current renovation, a new subdivision, Modern household subdivision, was formed in the department of History and Ethnography (the head was N.N.Pchelin). The carpets called “The real masterpieces of Azerbaijani handicraftsmen” in the periodical press were demonstrated in the Museum’s exposition. However, the changes occurring in Soviet community led by totalitarian regime, discussions on tar (musical instrument), mugham (national music), veil, hat, etc. also severely affected the structure and exposition of the Museum; all the Museum’s materials were divided between two departments. The division of Farming and Handicraft village, which was adapted for modern era, of the department of Material Culture of Azerbaijan, in which the ethnographic materials also included, was headed by Maria Guliyeva, the division of Nomadic and Semi-nomadic economy was run by Ishag Jafarzadeh. Not properly studying the issues of history and ethnography of Azerbaijan at that time had also reflected itself in the ethnographic exposition.
The fundamental changes that the museum underwent in 1936- the Azerbaijan State Museum started operating under the name of Azerbaijan History Museum- made the Ethnographic Fund to be incorporated to the division of Feudalism History of Azerbaijan (the Head was V.N.Leviatov). During the years of intensive work, special attention was paid to collect ethnographic and historical materials to enrich the Funds. According to the information from 1 January 1939, there were 1676 exhibits in the Ethnographic Fund. More than 500 ethnographic exhibits concerning the history of Azerbaijan in the XIX century were displayed in the exhibition organized in the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a branch of the Museum, in those years. The Fund designed 5 albums related to residential houses and embroideries of Azerbaijan in the 19th century and 13 albums of material and an elucidatory text were collected for the carpets and embroideries of Absheron. The ethnographic expeditions sent to Ganja and Shusha in 1938 obtained plenty of materials on the life and household of Azerbaijanis as well as ancient fabric, artistically valuable embroideries, the molds of silk kerchief and so on. According to the data from 1 December 1940, the number of exhibits preserved in the Ethnographic Fund had reached to 3057. The ethnographic expedition, in which B.O. Abdullayeva (the leader of the expedition) and the artist V.Sostrovens participated in 1941, enriched the Fund with the materials collected from Barda, Agdam, Aghjabadi, Lachin including Nagorno-Karabakh. The Fund already had 3498 exhibits in August 1943, in subsequent years, the Museum continued making the ethnographic visits as well as doing the archaeological research. During those years, the Head of the Fund Z.Kilchevskaiya showed special activity in this work. Because of those visits, she made an article and an album on the embroideries of Azerbaijan in the 19th century and the articles concerning the description of male and female clothes of Karabakh including Shusha.
Nowadays, the Ethnographic Fund of the Museum, which has been a structural unit of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan SSR since the 1950s, is one of its richest Funds. Total number of the exhibits being preserved in the Fund is 9047 depository items. The most ancient exhibits are a chandelier of the 12th century, a pestle, and a brazier. The exhibits such as copper vessels, silk fabric and woodworking samples relating to the XV-XVIII centuries and differing for their shapes and contents attract particular attention. The unique miniature embroidered on the silk fabric of the 17th century has caused great interest of specialists as well as visitors. Most of these materials are used to illuminate the history of the Safavids in the exposition. Majority of the exhibits being preserved in the Fund and reflected all areas of household culture of Azerbaijani people pertain to the beginning of the XIX-XX centuries. Copper, faience, wood products, fabric and carpet samples maintaining production traditions of our nation are exceptionally scientific base for researching our national values. There are also preserved household belongings of ethnic minorities and different nations in the Fund. Carpets and carpet products gifted to the Government, various organizations and the Museum in different periods are kept in the Ethnographic Fund. There is also a rich collection of national clothes that are the main indicators of material culture of Azerbaijani people. Male cloth with silver embroideries (chepken) of the XVIII century belonging to the Afshars, short-sleeved dress (bahari) of Karabakh relating to the 19th century, the clothes of Khurshud Banu Natavan and others have a great historical and artistic importance.
Beginning from the 1950s, the Department of Ethnography was headed by M.Guliyev, A.Abdullayev, A.Izmailova. Z.A.Kilchevskaya, M. Jabrailova, N.Mehdiyeva, A.Dadashova, A.Rustambayova were conservators of the Ethnographic Fund within the Department of Ethnography. Since 2006, the department has been named “Ethnography scientific-fund department” and from that period till now, the head of the department is PhD in History, Gulzade Abdulova and the head of the Fund is PhD in History, S.Nasirova.
Along with cultural heritage samples obtained by the ways of collecting and purchasing in various years, the ethnographic expeditions carried out continually up to the present have played a necessary role in enriching the Fund’s materials. V.F.Trofimova, Z.Kilchevskaya, S.Gaziyev, H.Guliyev, A.Izmailova, G.Abdulova had participated in those expeditions.
The Fund’s materials have widely been used to organize exhibitions pertaining to Azerbaijan in Norway, Germany (Dresden), Vatican, Ostrava and Prague cities of the Czech Republic. The materials of the Fund were displayed in the exhibitions held in the Museum such as “Caucasian Islamic Army-90” (“Qafqaz İslam ordusu-90”) (2008), “Mugham world” (“Muğam aləmi”) (2009), “Baku-the capital of Islamic culture” (“Bakı-İslam mədəniyyətinin paytaxtı”) (2009), “Ancient cultural center of Azerbaijan-Karabakh” (“Azərbaycanın qədim mədəniyyət ocağı - Qarabağ”) (2010), “ Gems of the National Museum of History of Azerbaijan” (“Milli Azərbaycan Tarixi Muzeyinin inciləri”) (2010), “The second life of Museum’s items” (“Muzey əşyalarının ikinci həyatı”) (2011), “Copper vessels of Azerbaijani table” (“Azərbaycan süfrəsinin mis qabları”) (2013), “Arshin mal alan-100” (“Arşın mal alan - 100”) (2013), “Gifts from friendly countries” (“Dost ellərin hədiyyələri”) (2014), “Azerbaijani women’s adornments” (“Azərbaycan qadın bəzəkləri”), “Oil chronicle of Azerbaijan” (“Azərbaycanın neft salnaməsi”) (2014), “Shaki: ancient region maintaining our heritage” (“Şəki: irsimizi yaşadan ulu diyar”) (2019), the exhibition “The Shirvanshah’s heritage in the world’s museums” (“Şirvanşahlar irsi dünya muzeylərində”) (2019) organized in the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the exhibition “The nation is grateful to you” (“Millət sizə minnətdardır”) (2020) dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War.
The book-albums such as "Азербайджанские вышивки" (1970), "Ковры и ковровые изделия "(1970), "Азербайджанская национальная одежда"(1970), “Чеканные медные изделия” (1970), “Azerbaijani embroideries” (“Azərbaycan tikmələri”) (1971), “National clothes of Azerbaijan” (“Azərbaycan milli geyimləri”) (1972), “Khurshid Banu Natavan-180” (“Xurşid Banu Natəvan - 180”) (2012), “Mirza Fatali Akhundzadeh-200” (“Mirzə Fətəli Axundzadə - 200”) (2012), “Karabakh carpets” (“Qarabağ xalçaları”) (2013), “Baku, Shirvan, Guba carpets” (“Bakı, Şirvan, Quba xalçaları”) (2013), “Copper vessels of Azerbaijani table” (“Azərbaycan süfrəsinin mis qabları”) (2013), “Clothing adornments of Azerbaijani women” (“Azərbaycan qadın geyim bəzəkləri”) (2016), “Travel to the past way of life- perfumery, cosmetics, accessoires” (“Keçmiş məişətə səyahət - ətriyyat, kosmetika, aksesuarlar”) (2018), “Beauty is ten” (“Gözəllik ondur”) (2020) and the monography “National clothes of Azerbaijani men” (“Azərbaycan milli kişi geyimləri”) (2020) on the Fund’s materials have been published.