Swiss Alpine Museum


ALPS Swiss Alpine Museum is all about people and mountains. It focuses on issues wherever society is on the move. There might not be any easy answers, but we still need to talk about things: about the environment, nature, and climate change, and about the relationship between the urban and alpine worlds. Its exhibitions and events extend far beyond the scope of the Alps as a region. While ALPS is open to all points of view, it is anything but neutral: its aim is to inspire lifeworlds that are creative and constructive – not just for society but for every single one of us too. ALPS wants to get people – and things – moving.

ALPS: a museum
Instead of hosting a permanent exhibition, the ALPS’ approach is to present three temporary exhibitions simultaneously at the main venue in Bern accompanied by a programme of events. Innovative and unexpected elements are the name of the game: this includes everything from projects with an artistic twist to participatory exhibitions focusing on current events while playfully adopting experimental forms. “Culture vultures” and those who know their way around the mountains will be able to relate to the material as much as younger visitors, families, and school groups. ALPS has a collection of Alpine cultural objects, operates its own restaurant, and is a partner in the future-oriented urban development project Museumsquartier Bern.

ALPS: more than a museum
ALPS is more than a museum. It is also a place where people and organizations that are active in the mountains – ranging from science, culture, tourism, spatial development, and NGOs through to mountaineering – can engage in a process of exchange. The role of the institution as a “platform” is to be expanded even further in the future. Yet ALPS is also a presence in various (mountain) regions thanks to its exhibition projects.

ALPS bricht auf
Wenige Wochen ist es her, seit das Alpine Museum der Schweiz seinen Namen auf vier Buchstaben eingekürzt hat. Ab sofort heissen wir schlicht und einfach ALPS. Ein Wort, das englisch oder rätoromanisch gelesen werden kann, seit Jahren schon als Abkürzung dient und künftig für beide Tätigkeitsbereiche steht, das Themenhaus und das Netzwerk, die sich beide mit Bergen und Menschen auseinandersetzen – und dies nicht nur in Bern, sondern weit darüber hinaus.

Einblicke in unsere Arbeit im 2023 sowie einige Einblicke in laufende und kommende Projekte lesen Sie im Jahresbericht.

Jahresbericht 2023

Bringing the Matterhorn to the Swiss Parliament: that’s what happened in 2011 when Beat Hächler, then the new director of the Swiss Alpine Museum, approached the political committees who were deciding on the museum’s future funding. His intervention was in many ways symbolic for what is now happening at ALPS: refusing to shy away from difficult discussions, bursting with new ideas, displaying an appetite for unconventional methods – and facing recurring funding debates, of course.

Looking towards the future
The Swiss Alpine Museum (Schweizerisches Alpines Museum, or SAM) was first founded in 1905. Since 1934 it has been run as a foundation “with the function of operating a museum about the Swiss Alps” headquartered in a listed Bauhaus-style building at Helvetiaplatz 4. To this day, the federal government, the canton of Bern, the city of Bern, and the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) have all contributed to its basic funding. In 2011, the funding situation was hanging by a single piton[NM2] , but the model of the Matterhorn worked its magic, garnering federal funding for an additional four years. The SAM – by then known as the Alpines Museum der Schweiz – embarked upon a new and untested route, its sights now firmly set on contemporary social themes.

The museum’s new direction was duly recognized when it was nominated as European Museum of the Year in 2013 and awarded the Prix Expo for its climate exhibition “Our Water: Six Models for the Future” four years later. But the Alpine Museum isn’t just active in Bern, with increasing involvement in projects all over Switzerland, such as the pop-up exhibitions on the highly popular Gornergrat mountain. The museum’s scope and visitor numbers continue to grow.

In 2017, the Alpine Museum was faced with an existential crisis when the Federal Office of Culture slashed its federal support by 75 percent. It seemed that the long-established museum would be forced to close its doors for good. In response, the museum mobilized over 16,000 people who, in an unparalleled rescue operation, signed a petition in support of the Swiss Alpine Museum. The new solution stipulated that the federal government would now finance the museum as a “network” – but at a reduced level of funding (minus 25 percent). At the same time, however, the Alpine Museum took on new roles and expanded its programme for people and organizations that are (professionally) active in the mountains.

Then came 2020 – the year of the Covid-19 pandemic and multiple lockdowns. Like other cultural institutions and society as a whole, the virus had a major impact on the Alpine Museum. Although the museum experimented with a variety of hybrid events, visitor numbers nosedived. 

Things are looking up
But a number of other things have been happening too. After years of preparation, the association Museumsquartier Bern was founded in 2021. The Alpine Museum took on a leading role in shaping this urban development project. That same year the North Korea exhibition “Let’s Talk about Mountains” opened. Its innovative format in the form of a documentary film installation provided visitors with a unique look at this isolated part of the world. “Let’s Talk about Mountains” was the museum’s most successful exhibition to date, recording a total of 38,000 visitors. In 2023, the exhibition was also presented at the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum in Dresden.

In 2022, the Alpine Museum initiated a process aimed at focusing and expanding its profile. This was made possible thanks to a “transformation process” that was partially financed by the federal government and the canton of Bern in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. The museum is seeking to appeal to a wider audience and strengthen its position as a venue for discursive contemporary issues. Surveys showed that the name “Alpine Museum” was, at least in part, still associated with clichéd notions of the mountains. Moreover, the programme aims to promote the museum’s role as a platform for (Alpine) professionals. With all this in mind, in 2024 the museum took a decisive step in choosing to turn its abbreviation into its new name: the museum is now known as ALPS.

Gianna Luzio, Geographer and Secretary General «die Mitte», Savognin / Berne

Members of the Board of Trustees
—Sibylle Birrer, Head of the Canton of Bern Office for Culture
—Marcel Kugler, financial expert, Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training, Grosshöchstetten
—Philippe Wäger, Head of Huts and Environment department, Swiss Alpine Club SAC, Berne
—Heinz Karrer, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Jungfraubahn Holding AG
—Michael Schmid, Architect Büro B, Berne
—Micael Schweizer, Notary and Attorney at Law, ambralaw, Berne
—Hannes Walz, Attorney at Law and Notary, Berne