The Ruhr Museum understands itself as a memory and showcase of the Ruhr region. In an integrative concept that combines natural and cultural history, it shows the entire history of the Ruhr region, from the origin of coal over 300 million years ago to today's structural transformation into the Ruhr Metropolis. The three exhibition levels of the museum are assigned to the categories Present, Memory, and History. In addition to multilingual guided tours, the Ruhr Museum offers an extensive educational and didactic programme.
The Ruhr Museum first opened at Zollverein with a temporary exhibition in 2008, and was then closed prior to its official opening in 2010 that coincided with the European Capital of Culture RUHR.2010. Also in 2010, the institution was extended by the addition of a depot and office building located directly across the street from the main site. Furthermore, the Ruhr Museum has several external branches, including a mineral museum and a geological trail.
The Ruhr Museum has developed as a main attraction of the Zollverein World Heritage Site. This is likely also influenced by its location in the former coal washing plant, which is the largest building of the Zollverein complex, and which also functions today as the main tourist information centre — the international Ruhr.Visitorcenter — and as the starting point for most of the Denkmalpfad Zollverein guided tours. In 2017, approximately 200,000 visitors attended Ruhr Museum exhibitions at Zollverein, not including events and visitors to its external branches.
Long-term perspective: Numerous educational partnerships, between the Ruhr Museum and various schools in the Ruhr region, have been concluded in recent years and will continue to be expanded. The museum's extensive collections invite further research, inter alia concerning the photographic collections in cooperation with the Folkwang University.