Museum brings the past to life to better understand the present

The cantonal museum in Sion. Valais museums department

The cantonal history museum in Sion has reopened after years of renovation, and visitors are noticing that far more has changed than just the building.

This content was published on July 15, 2000

Founded in 1883, Sion's cantonal museum has some 7,000 objects relating to the history of Canton Valais. The region has long been a well-trodden transit route between north and south and so has a rich heritage.

The museum's contents are largely the same as before the renovation, but there's been a complete change in the way the exhibits are presented. Cantonal museums director, Marie Claude Morand, has devised a new concept aimed at making visitors reflect not only on the past, but also on the present.

"It's a multiple perspective which the visitor can construct while moving from room to room," says tour guide Susan Riva. "The idea is to provoke thought about our own time by reconnecting with the past by means of the various objects.

"For example the coats of arms of prominent and noble families were symbols of power of groups of people working together for common goals such as the accumulation of territory. Today's equivalent is the trademark of a major commercial enterprise."

Throughout the museum, everyday items from modern times are placed alongside relics from the past 2,000 years. For instance in the section on the history of tourism - vital to the Valais economy - there's a cement mixer to remind visitors of how construction work has damaged the environment in some villages.

The cantonal museum is inside the Valère castle, on one of two hills overlooking the city of Sion.

by Richard Dawson

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