Cultural matters in Switzerland pivot on the cooperation of the Federal Office of Culture, The Swiss National Library (the organisational unit of the FOC), the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia and The Swiss National Museum.
There are only a few national cultural institutions in Switzerland. These include the Swiss National Library, the Swiss Literary Archive, the Cinémathèque Suisse, and the Swiss National Sound Archives. The Swiss Literary Archive and the National Sound Archives accomplish, in close cooperation with the Swiss National Library, a principle set of tasks set out in the National Library Act, which are collecting, cataloguing, and making content that is connected in one way or another with Switzerland’s history and culture available to the public. The Swiss National Museum in Zurich, together with the Château de Prangins, the Forum Schweizer Geschichte Schwyz – and the associated collection centre in Affoltern am Albis, form the SNM museum group, an institution under public law as a decentralised unit attached to the FDHA. According to Articles 4 and 7 of the Museums and Collections Act of 12 June 2009 (MSG), its mandate includes presenting the history of Switzerland and dealing with Switzerland’s diverse identity.
Switzerland has one of the highest concentrations of museums in the world. Since 1950, the number of museums in Switzerland has tripled, and as an example of their extraordinary use, 13.3 million admissions were recorded to more than 1 100 museums in 2018.
Since the early 1990s, private collections of contemporary art have shown a new tendency to establish their own museums or collections – often designed and built by internationally renowned architects.
In Switzerland, there are about 6 000 libraries. Most of the 10 largest libraries (which are home to more than 55 million media units) are university libraries and, at the same time, cantonal and city libraries. Since 2020, the holdings of over 470 libraries have been accessible on the research platform Swisscovery.
The Swiss National Library
Founded in 1895, the Swiss National Library is an Institution of the Swiss Federal Office of Culture. It collects, lists, conserves and makes accessible all the printed or digital information linked to Switzerland. The law of the 18th December 1992 on the Swiss National Library constitutes its legal basis. It mentions: “The National Library oversees that all the Swiss publications are accessible to researchers, Swiss or Foreign, and that Swiss publications are preserved in a long-lasting and secure way, contributing to the preservation of the Swiss memory in collaboration with other Institutions. It collaborates closely with the cantonal and university libraries in Switzerland and abroad, in particular, the National European Libraries”.