From the very beginning, the museum's collection was meant to cover a wide range of materials and epochs of European and Asian applied art. In recent decades, the collection has also expanded to include art objects from other parts of the world. Originally supported by the citizens of Leipzig, the collection continues to grow to this day thanks to the commitment of private donors. It currently holds around 230,000 unique objects and pieces from serial production. The classic collections hold an abundance of objects from areas such as ceramics, porcelain, glass, textiles, gold and silverware, ornamental and utility tin, base metals, wrought iron, sculptures of wood and stone – in particular picture carvings of the late Gothic period – furniture and wooden utensils, coins, medals and plaques.
The textile collection is particularly extensive, with a broad spectrum ranging from early Coptic weaves to Bauhaus fabrics and contemporary textiles. Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Functionalism tie the different categories of materials of the collection together. Other central areas of the collection focus on arts and crafts and twentieth-century design.
The library also houses a number of special collections: these include a collection of graphic sheets with ornament engravings and patterns as well as a collection of historical books and photography with a remarkable assortment of antique pictures and Bauhaus photos.
Only a small part of the collection is permanently on display.