Switzerland in the Making

Altdorf, William Tell. Photo: TES.

The exhibition shows the conditions under which the old Confederation was formed in the Middle Ages (12th-14th centuries). The history of today’s Confederation goes back more than 700 years. The relations between king, church, nobility and peasants and the emerging written language, cities and trade provide insights into this period of upheaval. The “Schwarze Stube” provides an insight into a medieval house. The building dated from 1311 and was saved from demolition. The communities of the people inhabiting the valleys around the Lake of Lucerne, the significance of their treaties (Bündnisse) and the role of the rural assemblies (Landsgemeinde) are shown. The exhibition also deals with William Tell, Arnold von Winkelried, and the Rütli legend. 

0000 000 001 Seconds is Measurable

Photo: Musée International d'horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds

The search for precision in time measurement has been a driving force behind innovations in the watch industry since the 17th century. The pendulum, the balance spring and then the quartz make it possible to multiply the precision of clocks. From the Second World War onwards, the precise measurement of time passed from the hands of watchmakers and astronomers to those of physicists. From 1967, the measurement is determined by a microscopic phenomenon: the oscillation of caesium atoms. One femtosecond – 0.000 000 001 seconds is measurable. This precision, hidden to ordinary people, is essential to the organisation of today’s human society: geolocation, navigation, transport, telecommunications, possible thanks to the extreme precision of the time measurement.

The Identity of Switzerland

The exhibition explores the question of what makes Switzerland what it is today. What binds a community together? Initially one might assume it is to do with having the same language, external enemies or economic interests. However, something generally precedes all that: common ideas that are passed down from generation to generation and that shape the development of the community. These ideas lend a distinctiveness to the collective and eventually form the foundation of a national identity. The exhibition presents selected works by four authors whose ideas contributed to creating the image of contemporary Switzerland: Henri Dunant (1828-1910), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), Jean Calvin and Petermann Etterlin (1430-1509). The textual references are supplemented by the Gotthard relief, the Dufour map and numerous data records relating to Switzerland.