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Research projects

Information on current and past research projects at the Open-Air Museum Ballenberg.

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Sicht auf die Geländekammer Zentrales Mittelland, vorbei am Haus aus Villnachern zu den imposanten Strohdächern der Gebäude aus Leutwil und Oberentfelden.

Living, building and doing business in rural Switzerland"People and Homes" research project

How did people use to live in the countryside? Which people made up a household? What did they live off? Why did people decide to build a new house or to convert one? Who had the right and the means to do this?

The Swiss Open-Air Museum and other research institutions have long been interested in these and other questions, even as the landscape and agriculture have been changing rapidly and many old farmhouses have already been demolished. However, these questions have not yet all been answered.

The ‘People and Homes’ research project takes a new perspective and uses the latest research methods to explore the reality of life for earlier generations in the countryside. The focus is on the stories of selected houses in the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum and their inhabitants. The project examines interconnections related to construction, changes in economic practices and housing conditions, and other changes. Key topics of interest are the interdependencies and external influences – such as climate change, disease and wars – that triggered economic, social and cultural upheavals. The houses, the people, the material culture and nature itself are recognised as actors with their own ability to affect their surroundings, and their interactions are examined.

The project team combines approaches from architectural history, social and economic history, and cultural anthropology, and works closely with genealogists, architectural archaeologists, economic and social history researchers and local historical associations, and is also involving a wider range of people within the framework of citizen science. The data collected will be made publicly available in a database.

Das Stöckli aus Köniz BE (382) im Freilichtmuseum Ballenberg.

"People and Homes" research project

Living, building and doing business in rural Switzerland

Financing: SNSF (project number 189398)
Duration: 01/06/2020 – 31/05/2024


  • Professor Walter Leimgruber, Professor of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology at the University of Basel: principal applicant
  • Professor Marion Sauter, architect and art historian, Professor of Cultural Theory at Bern University of Applied Sciences (Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering): applicant
  • Beatrice Tobler, exhibition curator at the MUSEUM LUZERN: project partner
  • Dr Kurt Münger, chemist, President of the Swiss Society for Genealogical Studies (SSGS) and member of various historical societies in eastern Switzerland: project partner
  • Linda Imhof, art and architectural historian lic. phil., University of Zurich: doctoral student, Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • Stefan Kunz, architect MA FHZ SIA, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts: doctoral student, Bern University of Applied Sciences
  • Oliver Rendu, historian and archaeologist MA, University of Lausanne: doctoral student, University of Lausanne

Swiss Open-Air Museum

Museumsstrasse 100
CH-3858 Hofstetten bei Brienz

+41 33 952 10 30

Opening hours

11 April to 27 October 2024
10 am to 5 pm daily

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