In this paper, I discuss the development and use of images employed by the Dresden Royal Museum for Zoology, Anthropology and Ethnography to resolve debates about how to use visual representation as a means of making ethnographic knowledge. Through experimentation with techniques of visual representation, the founding director, A.B. Meyer (1840–1911), proposed a historical, non-essentialist approach to understanding racial and cultural difference. Director Meyer's approach was inspired by the new knowledge he had gained through field research in Asia-Pacific as well as new forms of imaging that made highly detailed representations of objects possible. Through a combination of various techniques, he developed new visual methods that emphasized intimate familiarity with variations within any one ethnic group, from skull shape to material ornamentation, as integral to the new disciplines of physical and cultural anthropology. It is well known that photographs were a favoured form of visual documentation among the anthropological and ethnographic sciences at the fin de siècle. However, in the scholarly journals of the Dresden museum, photographs, drawings, tables and etchings were frequently displayed alongside one another. Meyer sought to train the reader's eye through organized arrangements that represented objects from multiple angles and at various levels of magnification. Focusing on chimpanzees, skulls and kettledrums from Asia-Pacific, I track the development of new modes of making and reading images, from zoology and physical anthropology to ethnography, to demonstrate how the museum visually historicized humankind.