Museum of Communication

Christian Rohner

Head, Exhibitions and Digital, Museum of Communication

Museum of Communication, Bern, Switzerland

Helvetiastrasse 16, CH-3000 Bern 6, Swiss

The Council of Europe Museum Prize 2019


The Personal Museum



The Museum of Communication was founded in 1907 as the Museum of Post and Telecommunications History. Since 1997 it is a private and non-profit foundation of the Swiss Post and the telecoms company Swisscom. The two founders finance the museum in Berne’s town center with annual operating subsidies. The museum is additionally dependent on third-party funding for its projects. Municipal and government grants, different foundations and sponsors and a crowdfunding supported the new permanent exhibition.

The Museum of Communication is the only museum in Switzerland dedicated exclusively to communication and its history. Through its exhibitions and activities, it explores the social and cultural effects of communication and its technologies, putting humans and their interaction with communication centre stage.

In 2012 the Museum of Communication set about a complete overhaul. The project team is interdisciplinary and works with innovative new methods. In August 2017 the museum opened the brand-new, approx. 2000-square-metre core exhibition with a new museological concept. The project is pioneering: the museum has developed from a temple into a forum, found new answers to old questions, and taken visitor interaction to a new level.

The Museological Concept

The concept of the Museum of Communication is based on the “three E’s”: Experience, Entertainment, Education. In the experience-oriented exhibition, visitors learn in a playful way. As part of the revamp of the museum, the museum enhanced its approach with the addition of three new concepts.

* Communicators are always present in the exhibition as hosts. They bring a personal dialogue into the museum and replace old-fashioned museum guards. They are the living heart of the exhibition and the spark for creating authentic experiences. The communicators invite visitors to engage in conversation at eye level – because we are all experts when it comes to communication. Of course they can also answer any questions visitors may have, and explain unique background stories to the 1001 objects in the museum. In short, a visit to the museum becomes a personal experience and the museum can meet the different needs of its guests, it can even pick up daily news and concerns and integrate them into the exhibition. The communicators have been well prepared for this demanding role with extensive training specially designed by the museum.

* The easily accessible content and participatory projects bring the museum to life for all. In order to awaken the interest of as many visitors as possible, the content of the exhibition can be approached through different senses. With interactive exhibits, games, videos, hands-on activities and the involvement of the communicators, visitors can engage playfully with the world of communication. The active involvement of visitors is vital to the concept of the museum and is facilitated not only by the communicators in the museum but also by participative projects outside the museum like collecting statements for the exhibition all around Switzerland.

* Communication is developing rapidly all the time, so that some of the content becomes quickly outdated. The Museum of Communication deals with this challenge by means of dynamic curating. Parts of the exhibition have been designed in such a way that they can be regularly renewed – within days, weeks or years, exhibits can be updated to offer regular visitors new experiences and a window onto contemporary issues in communication.


The Quality of the Storyline

From the biggest robbery of any post office in history, to a pirate radio station, through to the first cyborg in Switzerland: behind all of the 1001 objects in the core exhibition are memorable stories, ranging from exciting adventures to visionary ideas and bizarre mishaps. Through good storytelling, the Museum of Communication offers visitors a simple way of immersing themselves in the content of the museum.

The whole museum is linguistically accessible in German, French and English. It is accessible for able-bodied members of the public, hearing-, sight- and mobility-impaired and educationally-disadvantaged citizens, too. For example animated films in every zone of the museum provide an initial introduction, without words, to the objects on display.

Those who want to find out more can delve deeper into a story on the touchscreens, where they can listen to interviews and watch documentary film clips. The views of normal people as well as experts offer complementary insights into the multifaceted world of communication in the past, present and future.

The core exhibition is thematically divided into six exhibition zones, facilitating multiple visits to the museum. Guests can plan their visit as comprehensively as they want, find out more about communication in “bite size” portions, and discover something new on every visit. The cosy museums Café is a welcomed place for a break or a concluding discussion with co-visitors.

The Creativity of the Exhibition Design

Together with the renowned Amsterdam-based exhibition architects Kossmann.dejong the museum has created an atmospheric world of communication with a strong focus on people and interaction. Everyone is welcomed on the forecourt with an open “analogue chat-room” for visitors and the local community. Inside the museum a red carpet and a large-scale projection enables visitors to leave behind their everyday, communication-filled lives and dive straight into their museum visit.

Visitors can choose which route to take through the museum, and will find a range of interactive and in-depth media displays. All this across six exhibition zones, each designed to enhance the visitor experience. The creation of narrative spaces is the hallmark of works by Kossmann.dejong.


The Programme of Educational Activities

In Switzerland, the Museum of Communication has forged a pioneering path in the area of museum education over the past ten to 15 years. This is not least because the education department is always incorporated in the project development right from the start.

Following the renovation, the museum once again awaits its scope of target groups with a diverse range of educational activities. Communicators offer school groups and other groups guided tours thematically tailored to their specific requirements or interests. Besides facts and stories, anecdotes and gossip enrich the tour.

For schoolchildren aged between eight and 18 there are special educational activities. At the heart of each activity are exhibition objects that encourage learning through discovery. Content-wise, the activities are aligned to the school syllabus.

Pre-school children explore the exhibition accompanied by a mascot, the squirrel Ratatösk. It takes them on a special guided tour through the exhibition with age-appropriate communication games. It was important to us that children would be integrated directly and not separately. For example, while parents are learning about milestones in communication history in the Change Zone, their offspring are watching a children’s film about a parcel. Thus, the family doesn’t have to decide on a programme for children or one for adults. They can combine both. Happy children create happy adults!

2019 Museum Prize

The Museum of Communication is awarded the Council of Europe Museum Prize for the creative way it promotes media literacy in the service of responsible citizenship in a functioning democracy. More than a showcase for objects, it is a laboratory for social interactions, new relationships, and creative processes and a meeting place for people of all ages to explore and discuss vital issues relating to the role of communication in contemporary culture, history, politics, and ideology.


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