The Haus zum Kirschgarten was built for the silk ribbon manufacturer and army colonel Johann Rudolf Burckhardt between 1777 and 1780. Designed by the architect Ulrich Büchel, the mansion is probably the grandest private home in Basel. In 1951, having changed hands several times, it was made over to the city together with the Kleiner Kirschgarten next door for use as a museum of domestic life.

Most of the interior is devoted to period rooms showing how the more affluent members of society in 18th and 19th century Basel lived. The museum also houses some important special collections.

 

 

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Domestic Culture in Basel in the 18th and 19th Century

The Haus zum Kirschgarten was built as both private residence and business premises for the silk ribbon manufacturer Johann Rudolf Burckhardt between 1775 and 1780. Since it first opened as a museum in 1951, it has traditionally been a museum of domestic life: half of its fifty rooms are devoted to showing how people in 18th- and 19th-century Basel lived. The various period rooms are furnished with interiors taken from comparable townhouses, including five from the Segerhof, a merchant’s residence that was torn down in 1934. The kitchen, salons, dining rooms, bedrooms and ancillary rooms give visitors a vivid impression of how Basel’s well-to-do burghers once lived. 

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Porcelain and Faience

The Haus zum Kirschgarten’s impressive vaulted cellar house the museum’s very varied collection of ceramics. The large assortment of faience from Strasbourg and wares from other French, Swiss and southern German manufactories, are sure to delight not just porcelain connoisseurs but all visitors interested in the history of culture. The figurines and tableware illustrate how people of different social classes lived and give us a glimpse of the table culture of past times.

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Watches, Clocks and Scientific Instruments

1982 saw the museum’s own modest collection of watches and clocks enriched by three private collections of outstanding quality: the 200 sun dials and scientific instruments of the Emanuel G. Sarasin-Grossmann collection (on permanent loan), the 180 mechanical clocks belonging to the Dr. Eugen Gschwind Foundation – including a large number of gold watches enamelled by the famous Huaud of Geneva – and a third collection of 242 mechanical clocks and watches, including a unique collection of twenty-two coach clocks belonging to Carl and Lini Nathan-Rupp. At one fell swoop, therefore, Basel Historical Museum came into possession of a collection of watches and clocks of European standing. The watches and clocks are exhibited together with the University of Basel’s collection of scientific instruments. Another room is devoted exclusively to Basel’s own watch-makers, who by 1780 were producing some superb timepieces.

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Games and Toys

Wooden toys, tin toys, paper theatres, games and picture books, construction kits and dolls – they all had the power to delight the children of Basel’s well-to-do burghers. Imported goods, especially from the major German toy-making centres, continued to dominate the offering in Basel right up to the early 20th century. Exhibited alongside these are some charming objects made somewhat later by Swiss producers as well as a few hand-made items. The collection concentrates on toys belonging to families in Basel. With its dolls’ houses, kitchens and shops, it makes an interesting addition to the show of domestic life in Basel in the 18th and 19th century. The collection derives its quality from the large number of very old and rare toys dating from the 18th and 19th century.