Object database management systems (ODBMSs) are now established as the database management technology of choice for a range of challenging data intensive applications. Furthermore, the applications associated with object databases typically have stringent performance requirements, and some are associated with very large data sets. An important feature for the performance of object databases is the speed at which relationships can be explored. In queries, this depends on the effectiveness of different join algorithms into which queries that follow relationships can be compiled. This paper presents a performance evaluation of the Polar parallel object database system, focusing in particular on the performance of parallel join algorithms. Polar is a parallel, shared-nothing implementation of the Object Database Management Group (ODMG) standard for object databases. The paper presents an empirical evaluation of queries expressed in the ODMG Query Language (OQL), as well as a cost model for the parallel algebra that is used to evaluate OQL queries. The cost model is validated against the empirical results for a collection of queries using four different join algorithms, one that is value based and three that are pointer based. Copyright c © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.