Given its foundation in 1879, the Stadtmuseum Kaufbeuren (Kaufbeuren Municipal Museum) is one of the earliest museums with a focus on the history of a particular city in Bavarian Swabia. The 1901 exhibition "Volkskunst im Allgäu" (Folk Art in the Allgäu) which featured rural furnishings and fittings typical for the lodgings of the peasantry, was a turning point in Bavarian museum history. Parts of this exhibition are still integrated into the museum's permanent exhibition the collections of which are of national importance. The core of the collection consists of objects relating to the municipal history of Kaufbeuren, a former imperial city, as well as to folklore and to the region's history of religious piety. In addition, there are outstanding special collections such as a crucifix collection, unique in Bavaria, with about 300 objects ranging from the Romanesque to Expressionism, the holdings of Protestant reverse-glass paintings and the estate of the renowned author Ludwig Ganghofer (1855–1920). In addition to Ganghofer, the museum's permanent exhibition presents other local authors, such as Sophie von la Roche (1730–1807), Christian Jakob Wagenseil (1756–1839) and Hans Magnus Enzensberger (born 1929).
The Stadtmuseum Kaufbeuren preserves essential parts of the cultural heritage of the city and of its surrounding hinterland and of the knowledge about the civic history from its foundation to the present day. The Stadtmuseum wishes to promote an understanding of the historical context and of cultural change and contributes to the formation of a civic identity for all citizens. It is intended as a forum of exchange and centre of encounter in equal measure and sees itself as an institution of cultural education and of service to the public at large.
Two special exhibitions a year dedicated to topics of general and cultural history enable the public to keep taking a fresh look at historical and present times and to encourage societal dialogue. Numerous events – ranging from lectures in the museum to public discussions on issues of urban development – complete the museum's aim as a place of exchange to enrich urban life.
The permanent exhibition of the Stadtmuseum, reopened in 2013 after over ten years, offers an insight into the city's history on an exhibition space of c.850 m². The exhibitions take place in the historical museum building, in an eighteenth-century town house and in a modern extension building. In addition to a free audio guide, media and interactive stations invite adults and children to go on a journey of discovery. The Stadtmuseum Kaufbeuren was awarded the Bayerische Museumspreis (Bavarian Museum Prize) in 2013 for its innovative concept and was nominated for the European Museum Prize in 2015.