Many tasks must be performed before a Ballenberg building is ready for the winter break. These activities are grouped together under the term “winterisation”. These wide-ranging tasks primarily facilitate the protection of cultural heritage and are an important part of a museum’s work.
Ballenberg visitors will spot many details when wandering through the buildings of Switzerland’s only open-air museum. There’s something new to discover during every visit. The carefully furnished houses provide the backdrop for an immersive museum experience. The upkeep and management of over 100 buildings and the objects exhibited within them requires time and resources, and not just during the museum season, which runs from mid-April to the end of October. The winter months, and in particular the period following the end of the season, bring with them a lot of work. Locking up alone won’t do the trick at Ballenberg. There is much to do before the historic buildings are prepared for the winter break. The final tasks on the grounds take around a month to complete. Staff face a certain degree of time pressure, especially when winter threatens to arrive early.
“Winterisation” involves a range of tasks that are necessary during the winter period at the open-air museum. The facilities team makes their way from house to house, covering the areas where museum visitors had strolled just a few days before. The winterisation activities are often as varied as the Ballenberg buildings. The team consists of highly experienced seasonal workers, a museum technician and community service workers who provide support. They all share vast knowledge of the buildings and the objects exhibited within them. The tasks to be carried out are documented for each house.
As part of the winterisation process, every room at Ballenberg is re-entered and prepared for the coming winter months. Furniture is carefully moved away from the walls, placed together and sometimes vacuumed and covered. Individual exhibits are cleaned, put away in chests and cupboards, and taken to be restored if they have defects. Objects requiring special protection are placed in winter storage during winter. All objects hanging on the walls – paintings, sacred corners, mirrors, etc. – are taken down, cleaned and stored safely. Textiles are gathered and brought to the works yard for cleaning, care and storage. Mattresses are removed from beds, assembled and covered. Vessels with holy water are emptied and dried and the weights from old clocks are detached, carefully labelled “right” and “left”, and stored. Last but not least, shutters are closed or windows are covered with sheets. The doors and barriers in the interior of the buildings are usually left open so that air can circulate. Only once all these tasks are complete can the master key be turned in each building, signalling that they are all ready for the winter break.
We do not only carry out winterisation activities in the interior of Ballenberg buildings. The exteriors of historic houses are also protected from winter weather conditions as well as possible. This involves, for example, installing roof supports so that roofs do not sustain as much damage under a heavy snow load. The winterisation activities are also particularly focused on wells and water supply systems. These need to be turned off before the first frost to ensure that no damage occurs. Forestry operations and the fertilisation of fields and gardens are more examples of important tasks that take a lot of time and must be performed before the snow arrives.