The Museum Hub of Palais de Rumine in Lausanne

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Palais de Rumine, Lausanne, Switzerland

In the centre of Lausanne, off the busy shopping streets, is an impressive turn-of-the-20th century building that looks like it might house some sort of local government offices.  While it does serve a municipal purpose, it is in fact a sort of museum complex, housing cantonal collections of varying interest but considerable scope.

The building is named after the chap whose money built it.  Gabriel de Rumine, a Russian from a noble family, was born in Lausanne after his parents moved there to help with his father’s health.  When de Rumine died in 1871, he bequeathed one and half million francs to the city of Lausanne.  This money was to be used, after being doubled over the course of 15 years, for whichever public service that was decided on by a commission of five magistrates and five professors.

The commission launched an international architectural competition in 1889 for designs for a project for the University of Lausanne.  The building was to house the university, but also the cantonal library and several museums.  Work began in 1892 to the general design of the Frenchman Gaspard André, and though inaugurated in 1902, construction continued until 1904.

As someone of Turkish heritage, one of the most fascinating things I discovered about the building is that the Treaty of Lausanne was signed here in 1923.  This was the treaty that established the borders of modern Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the problems caused by the First World War.

The building now houses one of the libraries of the University of Lausanne, which explains the large number of students who go in and out – as well as the functional cafe area with snack machines and tables occupied by studious laptop users.  It actually makes for a nice atmosphere.

Until 2018, the building housed five museums, including the Cantonal Museum of Fine Arts, but that is now being moved to its own home.  The other cantonal museums are still in place and cover an interesting range of topics.

Cantonal Museum of Archaeology & History, Musée cantonal d’archéologie et d’histoire

This little museum has an interesting collection of objects excavated from the area around Lausanne, but also the canton at large.  The collections go as far back as 15,000BC, and there are some very attractive Roman and medieval objects on display.

To see my entry on the museum, please click here.

Cantonal Museum of Money, Musée monétaire cantonal

This adorable and educational museum is really aimed at children in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that adults will get nothing from it.  There aren’t many coins on display, but what they have has a historical purpose and/or aesthetic value.

To see my entry on the museum, please click here.

Cantonal Museum of Geology, Musée cantonal de géologie

From fascinating fossils to geometric geology, this museum showcases some of the beautiful creations of nature.  And some of the weird creations too.

To see my entry on the museum, please click here.

Cantonal Museum of Zoology, Musée cantonal de zoologie

What can I say?  If you like your animals dead, this is the place to be.

To see my entry on the museum, please click here.

So In Summary

The fact that each of the museums has the word ‘cantonal’ in it demonstrates the local and municipal nature of the set-up.  I like the way that each of the museums keeps its independence and can display its collections in its own way.  While they aren’t the most exciting collections in the world, they are nicely displayed, so you’re willing to give objects more attention that you may otherwise do.

Further Information

The Palais has its own website (French only):  You can also click through to the details of the individual museums.

Regular exhibitions are held in the Palais – when I visited the obnoxious works of Ai Weiwei were littered throughout the museums.

How To Get There

The Palais du Rumine is centrally located in town.  But be warned: Lausanne is not flat.  There are hills.  These are sometimes mountains disguising themselves as hills, so you run out of air before you reach the top.  And locals stroll lightly past you with a smirk as you lie gasping and crippled on the ground.

So if you’d rather not die before you start sight-seeing, check out the local transport – they have a very helpful site available in English:

For general transport links from other places in Switzerland, the is as useful as ever.



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