As early as 1947, an organisation was established for the foundation of a technical museum for Switzerland. Objects of historical interest were collected primarily from the stocks of industrial companies located in the city of Winterthur and the "golden triangle" of Swiss mechanical engineering – Winterthur, Zurich and Baden.
Organization as a foundation
On 26 June 1969, a foundation called TECHNORAMA OF SWITZERLAND was set up with the intended purpose of establishing "an educational institution which would present science and technology in a living exhibition (…)" in the form of a museum exhibition. The aim was, in turn, to enable the public at large to have direct experimental contact with these themes.
1982 saw the opening of an exhibition in Technorama, modelled after conventional, technical museums and comprised of sundry industrial artefacts, ranging from steam engines and devices for testing materials to music boxes. The collection was supplemented with information panels and an audio-visual "superstructure". With it, Technorama achieved a certain degree of fame, for instance, with the "Spitlight", the world's largest slide projector.
In 1984, the "Phenomena" science exhibition was held in Zurich. Following the didactic principles of the German educationalist Hugo Kükelhaus, the exhibition presented approximately 200 natural phenomena and experiments involving water, mechanics, acoustics, light and colour, many of which were in the form of sensory hands-on exhibits. Due to its success, the exhibition was subsequently presented in South Africa, in the Netherlands, in Germany and then again in Zurich and attracted more than 5.4 million visitors.
But even this 18-metre-long monstrosity designed by the Ticinese tinkerer and aircraft engineer Gianni Andreoli was not able to circumvent the fact that fewer and fewer visitors were interested in obsolete installations and machines. In 1985, as the number of visitors continued to decline almost completely, Technorama faced serious financial troubles and bankruptcy.
New mission statement
The former director of Technorama Remo Besio (1940 -2016) was also enthusiastic about phenomena. In June 1990, a new mission statement was adopted which, on the one hand, was based on Hugo Kükelhaus's principles and, on the other hand, took up the idea behind the Anglo-Saxon science centres, in particular the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Inspired by Frank Oppenheimer (USA), Richard Gregory, Steven Pizzey (both UK) and based on the comprehensive collection of technical reports and evaluations from the American Association of Science and Technology Centers ASTC, steps would be taken to gradually transform Technorama into an interactive science centre.
Transformation into a technical museum
By 2000, the technical museum was systematically transformed into a science center. In November 2013, the name was officially changed from "Foundation Technorama of Switzerland, Science and Technology in a Living Exhibition" to the "Swiss Science Center Technorama". Since then Technorama has been a diverse and atmospheric experimental exhibition dedicated to learning with a strong element of play.
Integration of the Youth Lab
This reorientation led not only to an encouraging increase in the number of visitors, but also to a sharp increase in the number of youth visiting, including pre-school age children. The Youth Lab, which canton Zurich had furnished and operated in 1982 as a supplement to the Technorama museum, was organizationally affiliated with Technorama in 2003.
Expansion of the labs
In a further stage of development, this Youth Lab was refurbished in 2012, allowing for a significant expansion of its exisiting offerings. In the Swiss Science Center, there are now seven labs – two each for biology, chemistry and physics labs, supplemented by an atelier with workbenches for workshops geared towards a more constructive approach. Some 70,000 students visit Technorama within the framework of a class trip every year, making it the largest out-of-school learning institution for the sciences in Switzerland. With its offerings in the exhibitions and labs, it shapes the manner in which the sciences are appreciated, learned and taught in Switzerland.