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Switzerland is a nation of museum lovers

Visitors attend an exhibition at the Kunsthaus in Zurich Keystone

Half the Swiss population visits a museum at least once a month, according to a survey.

A quarter of those polled said they had attended an exhibition at least ten times in the past six months.

The report – based on interviews with more than 2,000 people – found praise for everything from the price of entrance tickets to the way exhibitions were displayed and presented to the public.

Details of the report come as latest statistics reveal that Swiss museums have registered a fall in the number of visitors in recent years.

Around 9.1 million tickets for exhibitions and permanent collections in some 371 museums were sold in 2002 – 500,000 less than in the previous year.

However, sales of the Swiss Museum Passport – which offers free entry to 300 museums across the country for an annual fee of SFr90 – rose by 34 per cent last year.

Frequent visits

Arlette Mottaz Baran, a researcher at Lausanne University’s Institute of Anthropology and Sociology and coordinator of the study, said the Swiss visited museums four times more often than their French neighbours.

Mottaz Baran also cited a report conducted in French-speaking Switzerland between 2001 and 2002 which found that only 7.7 per cent of those questioned never went to a museum.

Researchers said those questioned offered a wide variety of reasons for wanting to visit exhibitions, including a desire to inform themselves about the history and culture of their own country.

Historical and art museums were found to be the most popular, with two in three people saying that one of their main incentives for going was to increase their understanding of the world.

Enthusiastic response

Mottaz Baran admitted she was surprised that more than half of those questioned by researchers were enthusiastic about what they saw, while 29 per cent were “very enthusiastic”.

“I think I had expected a slightly more critical response,” she said.

The report also revealed that most visitors to Swiss museums did not wish to see more emphasis placed on entertainment when curators commission and plan exhibitions.

“Visitors do not say they don’t want to be entertained as such,” commented Mottaz Baran, “but they certainly question the idea that culture should only be about putting on a spectacular show.”

Virtually unpopular

Only a small minority of the 2,000 people surveyed approved the idea of virtual museums and online exhibitions.

The majority of those polled said they considered a visit to a museum as an opportunity to socialise with families and friends. Less than one in four admitted they attended exhibitions alone.

The Swiss National Science Foundation supported the study, which is due to be officially published later this year.


Switzerland has 930 museums, one of the highest amounts in the world.
There were 200 museums in the early 1900s, 600 in 1989 and 905 in 2002.
About half of these museums are historical ones.
9.1 million tickets in 371 museums were sold in 2002 – 500,000 less than in the previous year (source: Swiss museums association).
But the number of people using the museums passport rose by 34% in 2003 compared to 2002 (source: Swiss museum passport association).

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR