Museums in Geneva, Switzerland

In Geneva, the museums diversity cover a heritage of inestimable richness. The municipality owns sixteen museums, among which the art and history museums – art and history museum, Tavel house and Rath museum – form the largest museum complex in Switzerland with its eight museums and their million objects, its iconographic center, its library, its research laboratory and its restoration workshops.

From botany to archeology or the fine arts, from the history of the Reformation to natural history or from ceramics to ethnography, the Geneva museums tackle the main areas of knowledge and the arts. Geneva can boast in this area of a remarkably dense offer and a very rich and diversified program.

Next to it are the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and their herbaria, bringing together some six million samples, the ethnographic museum and its annex at Conches, the natural history museum, the Ariana museum – Swiss ceramics museum and glass – the gallery of plaster casts of the University of Geneva (the oldest collection of casts of Switzerland) or the Institute and museum Voltaire, internationally known for its collection of documents from the xviii th century.

There are around twenty private museums, subsidized – like the Mamco – or entirely private – like the Patek Philippe museum and the International Museum of the Reformation.

The Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva, an important collection of impressionist works and works from the Paris school; Opened in 1968, it closed on the death of its founder Oscar Ghez in 1998 and does not seem to be about to reopen, its collections circulate regularly as part of exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad.

Varied and accessible exhibitions
Alongside their benchmark exhibitions, which showcase the emblematic objects and works of their collections, the Geneva museums offer a rich program of temporary exhibitions. The Cultural Trails from one museum to another allow you to discover museums in a different way. The museums are grouped there by district, the walk from one to the other being a pretext for a multitude of edifying and entertaining discoveries. Monuments, public works of art or even historical anecdotes and winks come to animate a stroll between past and present which gives to understand the evolution of the city through the centuries.

Every year, in May, Museum Night allows regulars to experience their visit from a different angle, and those curious to discover new places in a joyful and colorful atmosphere. Each edition revolves around a theme inspiring the programming of museums which, on this occasion, deploy treasures of creativity to offer their visitors new and exciting experiences.

So that these offers can truly reach the greatest number of people, the City is proposing a number of accessibility measures, in particular with adapted pricing policies. In the museums of the City of Geneva, the spaces reserved for the permanent collections can be visited free of charge. Every first Sunday of the month, temporary exhibitions are also free. People with modest income can use their culture checkbook. For people with disabilities, permanent or temporary, the City also offers access measures such as visits adapted to their needs. In addition, since October 2017, the Cédille association has developed the Culture accessible Genève site in order to promote cultural events accessible to audiences with sensory, physical or mental disabilities.

Museums Pass
The Museums Pass brings together 16 Geneva museums to offer visitors a range of advantages. Sold at a price of 40 francs and valid for one year from its first use, the Museums Pass is an invitation to multiply museum experiences. It is on sale in the ticket offices of partner museums, as well as from the Department of Culture and Digital Transition and at the Geneva City Information Center.

Municipal museums
The following museums are part of the network of museums of the City of Geneva:

Ariana Museum
The Ariana Museum is a museum in Switzerland of ceramic and glass, located in Geneva, in the namesake park. The building stands close to the Palais des Nations, the seat of the United Nations Office at Geneva. On the first Sunday of the month, the temporary exhibitions at the Ariana Museum are open to the public

The plan of the building, of sumptuous architecture, consists of two symmetrical wings, separated by a large hall surrounded by a colonnade on two floors and crowned with an elliptical dome. Its starry vault, as well as the two sphinxes which watch over the main entrance on the lake side, are the work of Émile-Dominique Fasanino (1851-1910) and constitute a special feature among Geneva museums.

Conservatory and Botanical Garden of the city of Geneva
The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens of the City of Geneva (CJB) are a museum and an institution in Geneva. The entire garden, including the greenhouses, libraries and collections, as well as the two mansions “Le Chêne” and “La Console” are listed as Swiss cultural property of national importance. The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens currently occupy an area of 28 hectares near the lake and the UN park. The garden provides a setting for both walking and learning and offers various services, including workshops and guided tours.

The botanical garden includes a living collection of 14,000 species from 249 different families from all over the world, and the conservatory a historical herbarium of nearly six million botanical samples. Employees can identify wild plants brought in by the public and answer questions about their requirements. The Conservatory and Botanical Gardens have a library with 120,000 works. This living museum is divided into several sectors: an arboretum, rock gardens and the massif of protected plants, officinal and utility plants, greenhouses, horticultural plants (including a “garden of scents and touch”), a dedicated animal park. conservation, and the Botanicum (a family space) near the lake. This includes a playground and storytelling for children and the Carrousel des Fables, built by a rehabilitation institution.

Geneva Museum of Ethnography
The Ethnographic Museum of Geneva (abbreviated MEG) is a museum in Switzerland located in the district of Plainpalais in Geneva. Dedicated to ethnography, he won the 2017 European Museum Prize. In 2015, the MEG received the Red Dot Award Communication Design, in the spatial communication / exhibition design category for the staging of its main exhibition. The same year, the MEG also won the Multi-Media Art Innovative-Silver Prize for the sound chamber designed by artist Ange Leccia, for the main exhibition. In 2017, the MEG was awarded the ‘EMYA’ (European Museum of the Year Award), the highest distinction for a European museum. The MEG was awarded a Red Dot Award in 2015 by the Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen for the quality and originality of the scenography of its permanent exhibition.

The MEG keeps 74,000 objects, 20,000 phonograms and 100,000 photographic media. The MEG has chosen to exhibit in the permanent route 1000 pieces which have been the subject of a selection. Echoing Noah’s Ark, the floating platform at the entrance to the permanent exhibition brings together exotic objects, works of art perceived for their market value or even objects collected by missionaries and scientists. Beside it, the masterful video installation by contemporary artist Ange Leccia takes shape, like an hourglass defining time around the universal motif of the sea, which is found on all continents.

Geneva Museum of Art and History
The Museum of Art and History (MAH) is a museum located in Geneva, Switzerland. The result of the bringing together of several regional museum funds and donations from collectors, foundations and citizens, the museum is rich in major works and unique series that make it a benchmark institution. Paintings, sculptures, prints, historical and archaeological objects, so many testimonies that reveal the multiplicity of aspects linked to the evolution of art and daily life over several millennia. The MAH also has a rich library of art and archeology, made available to the public. Largest art library in Switzerland, it contains a wide variety of works related to all the museum’s activities. It is the seventh most visited museum in French-speaking Switzerland.

The Geneva Museum of Art and History is a multidisciplinary museum. It brings together archaeological, applied arts and fine arts collections. The Museum of Art and History houses one of the main collections of fine arts in the country, initiated in 1805 and previously exhibited at the Rath Museum since 1826. It owes this position to generous donations and acquisitions aimed at consolidate series already in its possession. In addition to the important collection linked to regional identity, the sets built up over time bear witness to ancient, modern and contemporary art.

Geneva Museum of Natural History
The Geneva Museum of Natural History (abbreviated MHNG) is an establishment for scientific research, conservation of natural and historical heritage, and dissemination of knowledge. The institution is born at the end of the xviii th century, and knows several moves in the city of Geneva before disposing of its current building, located in the Malagnou park. It is the largest natural history museum in Switzerland, managing almost half of the country’s collections. These scientific collections bring together the heritage of Geneva naturalists like Fatio,Forel, Jurine, Necker, Pictet, Saussure, but also the collections of other great naturalists, such as the French Lamarck, Lunel and Delessert. They total nearly 15 million specimens, including a few tens of thousands of types that give them international importance. They are continuously enriched by the field missions carried out by researchers working in the institution, which describe about fifty new species per year.

The Geneva Natural History Museum houses an important library of scientific literature – zoology and earth sciences – and archives. It was created in 1832, on the proposal of François-Jules Pictet de la Rive, and includes several thousand precious works. Since the 1980s, it has housed the collection of the company Nos Oiseaux as well as a large collection devoted to bats. Historically directed by the bat expert Villy Aellen, the Natural History Museum maintains a bats center, housing the West Coordination Center for the study and protection of bats and organizing events for the bats every year.European Night of the Bat. The History of Science Museum of the City of Geneva since 2006 a subsidiary of the Natural History Museum.

In addition to aspects of maintaining and enriching collections and scientific research, the Geneva Natural History Museum has a mission of cultural mediation. It is recognized as a cultural property of national importance. Its entry is free and it receives an average of 250,000 visitors per year, making it the most visited museum in the canton of Geneva. Its permanent exhibition galleries cover 8,500 m 2, and present on four levels regional fauna, fauna from the rest of the world, earth sciences and human history. The exotic fauna is spread over two floors, and includes a room dedicated to the sculptures of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. The institution has hosted various live animals throughout its history. Since 1997 it is a two-headed turtle, Janus, which is presented to the public.

Other museums

Tavel House
La Maison Tavel is Geneva’s history museum and is part of the Art and History Museums. Located at number 6 rue du Puits-Saint-Pierre, in the heart of the Old Town, Maison Tavel is a unique testimony to medieval civil architecture in Switzerland. A listed historic residence, it is the oldest private dwelling preserved in Geneva. Classified as a historic monument in 1923, it was acquired forty years later by the city of Geneva. The latter transformed it into a museum of urban history and Geneva daily life in 1986. It was during this same period that Maison Tavel became part of the network of art and history museums.

The Maison Tavel notably houses the Magnin relief named after the Geneva architect Auguste Magnin, who made it. This large model of the city bears witness to Geneva before the demolition of the fortifications in 1850.

Rath Museum
The Rath Museum is a Swiss museum located in Geneva. It housed the collections initially kept at the town hall, at Calabri and at the Saint-Germain church, including 23 paintings sent by the Louvre in 1805, until the opening of the Art Museums and history of Geneva in 1910. Dedicated to the fine arts, it offers temporary exhibitions of Swiss and international art and archeology.

It was built on the Place Neuve between 1819 and 1826 at the instigation of the Société des arts, thanks to the donation of Jeanne Françoise and Jeanne Henriette Rath, heirs of their brother, General Simon Rath, who had put himself in the service of the Russian. On his death in 1819, he specifically bequeathed to his sisters the sum of 182,000 florins for the construction of a museum of fine arts. The bequest was not sufficient to cover the entire cost of the construction, the city participated financially in this project. Its inauguration took place onJuly 31, 1826. In her will, Jeanne Rath stipulates “enjoyment of the rooms of the Rath museum by the arts society in perpetuity until this society has voluntarily renounced them.” “She adds” I recall the true and only destination of this establishment devoted by my intention and my will to the fine arts, painting and sculpture without this room being able to be applied to other uses. ”

Designed by architect Samuel Vaucher, the building in pure neoclassical style is used as a specialist school, meeting place and exhibition space. In 1851, the Rath museum and its collections became the property of the city of Geneva after the proclamation of the radical republic by James Fazy. Shortly after, the fortifications surrounding the city were demolished. In 1879, the Grand Théâtre was inaugurated on an adjacent plot. Around 1875, the museum was full and, for each temporary exhibition, the walls had to be emptied. It was finally in 1910 that the museum of art and history at the Trenches was inaugurated. On this occasion, the Rath museum was redeveloped for its new purpose, that is to say temporary exhibitions, a function which is still devolved to it today within the framework of the network of art and history museums.

Collection of casts from the University of Geneva
The collection of casts of the University of Geneva is a heritage collection of plaster casts from the antique and electroplating held in Geneva during the second half of the xx th century by the archeology professor Jose Dörig and successors. This collection has about 200 pieces.

Many casts collected and acquired by Professor Dörig come from the former collection of the Société des Arts, exhibited at the Rath Museum since its opening in 1826. Today, the casts are as much study tools for students of the Classical Archeology Unit and the Department of Antiquity as they are a full collection open to the public. It is particularly accessible during cultural events such as Museums Night or various festivals linked to Antiquity, and during the holding of temporary exhibitions.

Voltaire Museum
The Voltaire Museum (formerly the Voltaire Institute and Museum) is a cultural institution located in the Parc des Délices in Geneva (Switzerland) and specialized in the study of the French writer Voltaire. It is one of four sites of the Geneva Library and hosts a library of Voltaire and the period of the Enlightenment as well as exhibits related to the writer or xviii th century. It occupies a mansion, called “Les Délices” by the writer who lived there between March 1755 and October 1760. This residence was bought in 1929 by the city of Geneva in order to avoid its demolition.

This mansion was built between 1730 and 1735 by a Genevan patrician. It acquired its notoriety because it was the property of Voltaire from 1755 to 1765. It was designed on a square plan but originally provided with a low wing on its west side which had the initial function of a gallery. Bought for Voltaire by the doctor Jean-Robert Tronchin, Voltaire undertook embellishment work fromMarch 1755. After the purchase of the Château de Ferney, Voltaire left Geneva and sold his house “Les Délices” to Mr. Tronchin, whose family remained the owner until 1840, then became the property of Jean-Louis Fazy. It was sold to the Caisse Hypothécaire de Genève in 1883. On this date, the building underwent major changes to allow the rental of apartments. A new transformation with heavy consequences in relation to its heritage value was carried out in 1925 by its new owner Jenny Rapp-Streisguth.

Petit Palais museum
The Petit Palais in Geneva, founded in 1968 and closed since 1998, is a private museum housing a collection of works of art. Oscar Ghez (1905-1998), Swiss industrialist of Tunisian Jewish origin, founded the museum in a private mansion to present his collections of modern art (paintings, sculptures and drawings). All the major movements from 1870 to 1930 are represented there, and particularly the Impressionist painters and those of the School of Paris.

After the founder’s death, the museum closed in 1998. His nephew administered the institution from 2000 to 2005. The works are loaned for temporary exhibitions in Switzerland and abroad (under the label: Les Amis of the Petit Palais).

International Museum of the Reformation
The International Museum of the Reformation (MIR) is a Swiss museum located in the heart of the old town of Geneva. It stages the history of the Protestant Reformation, born from the protest of Martin Luther in 1517 and taken up by Jean Calvin in Geneva in 1536, a religious movement still present in the four corners of the world. Fourteen thematic rooms are located in the Maison Mallet, a patrician house built in 1723 by the French banker Mallet, a refugee in Geneva, where the cloister of the canons of Saint-Pierre de Genève cathedral was located, which it adjoins and where the Genevans adopted the Reformation onMay 21, 1536; modern museum technology alongside the classicism of an apartment with 14 rooms 400 m2.

Drawing on numerous archival documents and rich iconography, the museum provides a detailed chronicle of the Reformation adventure, from its origins to the present day. The main part of the collections consists of manuscripts, engravings, portraits and caricatures, Bibles and old books; the jewel of the museum is the first Bible printed in French in 1535. Open on April 15, 2005, the MIR received in April 2007 the Museum Prize of the Council of Europe. Claiming an annual attendance of more than 25,000 visitors, it is also a space for free speech to understand the issue of religion today, from a cultural angle. One of its aims is to stimulate dialogue between different denominations or religious traditions.

Patek Philippe Museum
The Patek Philippe Museum is a museum deprived of watchmaking in Switzerland located in the district of Plainpalais in Geneva. It was founded by the management of the Patek Philippe company. In 1989, the house Patek Philippe celebrates its 150 th anniversary with the Museum Watch and enamelling of Geneva a collection of over 500 watches created by the factory. Given the success of this exhibition, Philippe Stern (president of Patek Philippe) and his wife Gerdi decided to dedicate a museum to it.

Located on the edge of the Plainpalais plain, this building erected by William Henssler was immediately intended for watchmaking and goldsmithing by its first owner, the firm Heller & Son, before being bought, first by the firm Ponti & Gennari, then by Piaget which occupied it from 1967 to 1977. It was then occupied by a factory of bracelets and watch cases belonging to Patek Philippe, the company Ateliers Réunis SA. With an architectural line intermediate between modernism and classicism, its facades are dressed in reinforced concrete shaped like stones. Inside, the stairwell has been preserved, and the building has been reorganized and extended to accommodate the collections on three levels.