Museum Walserhaus

Francesca Pedrocchi

Museum Walserhaus

6685 Bosco Gurin, Switzerland

European Museum Forum / Meyvaert Museum Prize for Sustainability 2021







The Museum Walserhaus Bosco Gurin was founded in 1938 as the first ethnographical Museum of the Ticino Canton, Switzerland, and presents the history, craftmanship, architecture, farming, habitation, traditions, religion, art, language and literature of the Walser village situated high up in the mountains.

The Museum is also intended to create cohesion within the village, to promote cross-generational interest in Walser culture, both in the neighbourhood and more widely and to support initiatives that contribute to the fulfilment of its mission which is: to present the history and culture of the Gurin Walser community and also that of other Walser communities, to care for the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Gurin Walser and to support, encourage and deepen knowledge and understanding of Gurin Walser origins, history, language and customs among the local community and further afield.

The Museum relies mainly on the work of numerous volunteers. This means that, despite our limited resources, the Museum is able to offer a wide range of topical activities. Inhabitants of the village and/or Association members can be called upon to offer their particular skills, giving the Museum access to its “own” team of enthusiastic historians, linguists, photographers, musicians and singers, geologists, botanists, biologists, herbalists, woodworkers, weavers, seamstresses, hill farmers and translators.

The Museum contributes to sustainability by employing local staff, creating new jobs in the village and using local craftsmen and locally produced food and goods whenever possible.



The building

Main Building: dating from 1386, this two storey building is one of the oldest farm houses in the whole Alpine area and is substantially preserved in its original state. Half of the house is arranged as a museum of the home; in the other half, the rooms are devoted to topics such as religion, crafts, history, etc.

Barn 1: Typical Walser construction of stone walls below and elevated wooden hay-store on “mushroom” stilts, where there is a permanent exhibition on hill farming.

Barn 2: Site for temporary exhibitions, courses and other events.

Garden: ProSpecieRara show garden (ProSpecieRara is a Swiss foundation for the cultural and genetic diversity of plants and animals).


The collection

Thanks to the recent remodelling of the permanent collection and the adoption of modern technology, the interest of younger generations is better served and we can address visitors in a more personal and emotive way.

The historic building is itself part of the collection together with the historic barns and haylofts, the original furniture and household objects, the tools for various trades, toys, traditional costumes, hand woven materials, works of art, paintings, drawings by the local artist Hans Anton Tomamichel (1899 – 1984), a collection of films and stills by Karl Skripsky, audio equipment and local seed collection ProSpecieRara.



Apart from the permanent exhibition of the above mentioned collection, each season the Museum offers a temporary exhibition dedicated to some topic linked to the local people and/or territory, for instance photos of a villager, watercolors created by a villager, local rocks and jewelry made of these rocks etc.


Community involvement / activities

The local community and the Museum are closely bound together: the Curator and attendants are recruited from the village and members of the village community are engaged in tasks such as care of the Museum’s garden, property maintenance and leading village tours. The involvement of our volunteers in all of our events and activities, stresses the importance of their skills. Collaboration with local and regional institutions such as the local authorities, the Citizen's community, the traditional costumes’ groups, all encourage closer social links. We place particular emphasis in all our events on providing activities for children and young people. Work is in progress to create a dedicated children’s trail in the Museum, as part of the permanent exhibition.

Every autumn the Museum organizes the village feast called Måtzufåmm, when a soup made with vegetables from the vegetable garden is served with local bread, cheese and salami. It is an important bonding occasion for both resident and non-resident Guriner. This event, in addition to the General Assembly, is an opportunity to publicise the Museum’s activities and to get new ideas for the future.

The yearly storytelling evening on 30th December also reinforces the feeling of belonging and helps to maintain the oral traditions of Bosco Gurin and the wider Walser community.

Guided excursions are conducted regularly on topics including local geology, flora and fauna, history and architecture.

Following the General Assembly, we also host talks by Swiss or foreign experts on various themes of Walser culture.

We regularly host an activity called GIM (Generations in the Museum) which brings together groups from different generations. They select an object, about which they invent a story which is shared with other groups. Afterwards the Curator or another expert will explain the real function of the object.

Taylor-made guided tours and craft and language courses for schools, families, experts and the general public, are very popular.



Research / publications Ongoing research and publications about the local Walser language, including compilation of dictionaries, research and publication in international conjunction with other Walser communities on linguistic, historic and cultural themes.

The activities in the field of linguistic studies have a particularly marked European dimension. We collaborate with experts in the Swiss Idiotikon and with Zurich University and exchange information and experience with other Walser communities in Europe, who also organize linguistic, historic, architectural and cultural activities.

Lectures and workshops in schools and in retirement homes on the Walser language, history and culture, both in general and with a particular emphasis on Bosco Gurin.

Articles are regularly published in newspapers and magazines about the Museum’s activities. There are also regular radio and television broadcasts.

The Museum is one of the promoters on European level of the project to promote Walser culture as an intangible cultural heritage recognised by UNESCO.

Research under the project “Updating Bosco family trees” has led to contact with numerous Gurin Walser families throughout the world and has stimulated a sense of community spirit both within and well beyond the village.

The Walserhaus Museum is an active member of the International Walser Culture Association (Internationaler Verein für Walsertum, IVfW) and maintains active links at international level.

A series of pamphlets in the so called Ggurijnar Cheschtschi (the Chest) on topics including village architecture, sgrafitto, frescoes, tales and legends, as well as discovery trails and treasure hunts, encourage visitors of all ages to learn about the area. The Museum is thus becoming a ”Museum in Territory“ (“ts Museum ufum Lånn in the local language”).

The Walserhaus Association is a member of the Committee of Historic German-speaking enclaves in Italy and in the Italian part of Switzerland.

We collaborate closely with the local Traditional Costumes Group, which supports us in the organisation of a number of events and activities.


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