NEW PERSPECTIVES: Women in Zermatt – Yesterday and Today


The year 2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn by Lucy Walker. Another milestone to be commemorated this year is Switzerland’s introduction of national women’s suffrage fifty years ago. These two anniversaries have prompted the Matterhorn Museum to take a closer look at the role of women in the history of Zermatt and at the larger questions of gender equality and equal rights in our society that it raises.

The exhibition in the museum and the visual staging in public space will bring to the fore those “women’s stories” that have long been hidden from view and, by turning the spotlight on the women of Zermatt past and present, will probe the historical narratives hitherto told.
From Alpine farmer to hotel manager, from tourist to pioneer mountaineer, New Perspectives will examine women’s place in society and the relationships between the sexes. History books, representations in museums and their collections are full of clichés and transmit old role models into our future. We all think and act in these hidden codes. The exhibition aims to reveal, discuss and challenge parts of these codes. The exhibition will question the social order of the nineteenth century, whose influence has endured to this day and will invite visitors to contribute something of their own so that in future years we write our history together.

With "NEW PERSPECTIVES", the Matterhorn Museum ventures an attempt to break away from conventional special exhibitions. The interactively designed project is integrated into the museum's permanent exhibition: it highlights existing women's stories, but also makes gaps in history visible. In addition, visitors are invited to help fill these gaps, to join in the discussion and to contribute their views and opinions.

Multimedia exhibition
A radio play takes visitors on a journey through the world of women in Zermatt 150 years ago, when mountaineering for women was not only not respected, but even taboo. The visitors get to know well-known personalities such as Catherine Seiler and Lucy Walker. But also the lives of anonymous people who have remained in the shadows of history. In video portraits, residents as well as personalities from outside Zermatt tell how they experience the village, politics, their work and society today. In addition, an audio application in collaboration with the Alpine Museum of Switzerland and the Valais State Archives enables visitors to tell their own stories and record them for the future. And for families, a play area with various games and children's books in collaboration with the Zermatt Municipal Library offers a playful way to engage with the theme.



Art up to the Klein Matterhorn
This time the exhibition is not limited to our own premises, but extends beyond the museum walls. The Valais artist Sabine Zaalene has developed art installations for various locations. "CORPUS" will not only be experienced in the museum, but from July 2021 also, for example, in cooperation with the municipality of Zermatt on the famous church bridge in the centre of Zermatt or in cooperation with Zermatt Bergbahnen AG on the mountain railway line to Kein Matterhorn.


CORPUS (Picture: Sabine Zaalene)

CORPUS, photographic installation
As part of the exhibition NEW PERSPECTIVES, the artist Sabine Zaalene draws our attention to women from and in Zermatt with the help of archive photographs. Through her selection, interventions in and staging of the photographs in (public) space, Zaalene brings the presence of women in the Matterhorn Museum, in the village of Zermatt and at the Furi mountain station to our attention. In doing so, she questions these original ensembles and what they represent. The title CORPUS manifests itself in the artist's search for traces of women's bodies and their stories in the past. The title unites the individual works with the subtitles "Time", "Bollywood", "Sit in", "Sister", "Rise", "Transcend" into one body: Corpus.
In collaboration with Actinic, Geneva

Corpus I, Time

(Church, Matterhorn Museum)
Time decomposes and changes – the mistery of a face

Taking a portrait of three women, the artist's installation focuses on the woman in the middle, framed by the arms, hands and pairs of eyes of the women next to her. All their eyes stare at the photographer and the viewers. The woman in the middle has a strangely discoloured face. Time affects the picture and leaves traces. These traces challenge us today. The artist shows this face – both concealed and revealed – on the mirror wall in the museum church.


CORPUS I: Time (Picture: Sabine Zaalene)

Original photograph: Portrait of three women by François Fumex, Zermatt, ca. 1900
(Collection: Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis)

Corpus II, Bollywood

(Entrance gallery floor, Matterhorn Museum)
Hierarchies and games of domination – Representations

Reality and illusion play with the viewer's perception. The photo was taken in a studio in Zermatt. In the foreground is the portrait of the Indian guest couple, in the background an associated Zermatt landscape. As a colonial power, Great Britain ruled over all Indian territories in the 19th century. The English were the first and most important guests in Zermatt at that time. The sitting position of the woman in the photo reflects her status in relation to her husband. With her installation, the artist highlights the woman's face by removing the man's head.


CORPUS II: Bollywood (Picture: Sabine Zaalene)

Original photograph: Guests in Zermatt by François Fumex, Zermatt, ca. 1900
(Collection: Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis)

Corpus III, Sit in

(End of gallery floor, Matterhorn Museum)
The presence of women – resistance

The detail of the family portrait chosen by the artist consists of the people sitting - two women on either side of an old man. Each woman holds a little girl on her lap. With her installation, the artist has chosen to highlight these seated women rather than the four men standing behind them in the original photograph. The artist thus makes the presence of the women visible. She positions them as pillars on either side of the entrance so that the old man finds himself crossed by the museum audience.


CORPUS III: Sit in (Picture: Sabine Zaalene)

Original photograph: Family portrait by François Fumex, Zermatt, ca. 1900
(Collection: Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis)

Corpus IV, Sister
(Elevator church bridge, Zermatt)
In the middle of the village – body and gaze

Sabine Zaalene: "The portrait of this woman from Zermatt is tightly framed by the glass panes of the elevator. Through its positioning, the portrait connects the different levels of the site. It stands at the centre of numerous traffic routes. The installation emphasises the presence of the woman - her body and her gaze."


CORPUS IV: Sister (Photo: Marie-France Hendrikx)

Original photograph: Portrait of a woman by François Fumex, Zermatt, ca. 1900
(Collection: Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis)

Corpus V, Rise
(Furi South Station, Zermatt)
The other side of the Matterhorn – the climate rises

Sabine Zaalene: "The contemplation of the Matterhorn is coupled with a new climatic paradigm. A female climber who has reached the summit gazes at the horizon. The mountain rises."


CORPUS V: Rise (Photo: Gaëtan Aubry)

Original photograph: On the summit of the Breithorn with Matterhorn by Karl Robert Schäfer, Zermatt, ca. 1930-1955
(Collection: Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis)

Corpus VI, Transcend
(Furi North Station, Zermatt)
The mountain is facing me – I am the mountain

Sabine Zaalene, "A masked, almost 'covidian' portrait. It is both feminine and masculine. With the mountain reflected in the female alpinist‘ glasses, this installation becomes a representation of the mountain itself."


CORPUS VI: Transcend (Photo: Gaëtan Aubry)

Original photograph: Mrs. Aubrey (Elisabeth) Leblond, Norway, ca. 1900
(Collection: Alpine Club Library, London)


Female pioneers of the Alps
On Schwarzsee you will meet the important female mountaineers of the past and present of the pop-up project "Matterhorn Ladies" of the Swiss Alpine Museum (in collaboration with Zermatt Freilichtspiele, Gornergrat Bahn and Burgergemeinde Zermatt, 2019).



Project management and curation:
Marie-France HENDRIKX, Carmen SIMON

Exhibition design, graphics and commercial graphics:

Nitroprint, Fabrice IANI

Marketing und communication:
Carmen SIMON

with Zermatt Bergbahnen AG:
Chantal BITTEL, Mathias IMOBERDORF, Angela ZENGAFFINEN, Sandra ZENHÄUSERN & Zermatt Tourismus: Simona ALTWEGG, Christian BÜRGI, Angela MOSER, Jana SUTER, Claudine ZIBUNG, Christian ZIÖRJEN

Alpines Museum der Schweiz, Gemeinde Zermatt, Gemeindebibliothek Zermatt, Kulturverein Zermatt, Zermatt Bergbahnen AG, Staatsarchiv Wallis

Project management:
Marie-France HENDRIKX, Carmen SIMON

Idea and concept:

Print and Exhibition furnishing: 
Actinic: Aurélien GARZAROLLI

with Zermatt Bergbahnen AG:
and Gemeinde Zermatt: Stefanie LAUBER, Zermatter Gemeinderat

Project management:
Marie-France HENDRIKX, Carmen SIMON

Idea and concept:

Actinic: Aurélien Garzarolli

Furnishing and technical team:
Cordes & Travaux Sarl: Gaëtan Aubry, Laurent Jacquier & Zermatt Bergbahnen AG: Reinhard Lauber
Lotterie Romande
Kultur Kanton Wallis
Gemeinde Zermatt
Bergbahnen Zermatt
Fondation Sandoz
Zermatt Tourismus
Gleichstellung Kanton Wallis
Kulturverein Zermatt
Stiftung für Erforschung der Frauenarbeit
Alliance F
Emilie Gourd

Hotel Sonne 
Atelier ETCO