|Abstract:||In 2009, the Swiss National Museum in Zurich chose a new approach for its permanent exhibition, and made a thematic narrative – based on four major research areas of contemporary historiography – the centre of its exhibition rooms. Underpinning this concept was the realisation that the main focus of contemporary research must be reflected in the presentation of history, even if it is in a constant process of change and reformulation. The collection of objects in the National Museum’s possession reflects earlier areas of research into Switzerland’s cultural history. The second new permanent exhibition, the ‘Collections Gallery’ reflects this emphasis on collecting, and shows the outstanding pieces in a display that is solely focused on the objects.|
In contrast, the permanent exhibition on Swiss history had to find new ways of presentation, since the National Museum’s collections have gaps in the areas of political and economic history, as well as in contemporary history. And yet, a new narrative of Swiss history must offer visitors precisely these links between outstanding objects of cultural history and the narrative of a national history, which addresses themes that are not shown in the collection. The four chapters of Swiss history are structured chronologically and enable the historical study of the settlement, religious, political and economic history of Switzerland – from the pre-Christian era to the 21st century. The objects in the collection have now been given ‘a new mediality’ in the nation’s venerable ‘Hall of Fame’. The modernity of the scenography, the presentations and arrangements of the objects break with the earlier presentation of political history which was characterized by the depiction of military victories. It now takes the visitor along a path – which can be physically followed – to consensual Swiss democracy and thus makes a contribution to the contemporary understanding of political developments in Switzerland. The other rooms give visitors a picture of Switzerland that is shaped by immigration and emigration, by religious conflicts and splits, by its political system based on consensus as well as early economic successes. The narrative strand links transformational processes with the great ruptures in history, and thus places itself entirely at the service of historical learning, one of the most important tasks of a history museum.