Site of the month

The particularity of the Site of the Month (SOTM) project is the strong collaboration between archaeologists, paleontologists and tourism professionals, as well as local historical associations. From June 2015 to June 2016, each month, one site in one region of Switzerland is put in the spotlight. Organised on a local level by the local partners, each site and the proposed activities are coordinated on a national level by a central office (ArchaeoConcept) in collaboration with the Swiss National Tourism Office.

In this way, we raise awareness for the archaeological heritage of Switzerland and promote it as a sustainable tourism product. Another goal is to bridge the gap between archaeologists and tourism specialists and to gather data for the development of standards for archaeological heritage tourism projects.

In the months before the official launch of the website and the activities at the first SOTM commenced, all the twelve sites were selected in cooperation with the local partners. Once the local partners had agreed to be part of the project they could start organising the local activities at their site.

ArchaeoConcept developed a multilingual website including three official Swiss languages (German, French and Italian) and English to make the information accessible to as many people as possible. Besides the website, a Facebook and a Twitter account ArchaeoConcept also designed a set of 12 postcards, one for each site, to be used on local and (inter)national level as promotion material. Articles were also written for specialized archaeology and tourism magazines.

The website includes a short description of the sites of the month and a list of events happening at the site during the chosen month. Each site has its own page with practical information, access and activities. The original element of the site is the "News". Every week, there are many activities concerning archaeological heritage going on in all of Switzerland. The SOTM website allows people to know what is happening right away since it feeds its news through twitter: new exhibitions - conferences - new discoveries. The website will be completed in 2016 by a series of small films on each site of the month.

Upon submitting this application, five sites have been presented and the first results, which are monitored through a questionnaire and interviews at the sites, are promising. The first SOTM in June 2015 was a paleontological excavation site called the Banné near Porrentruy (canton of Jura). Jurassica, the association responsible for the site, already organises several activities like the possibility for people to excavate. During the month of June, more than 400 visitors from the near region (usually classes) but also as far away as Zurich or Lausanne discovered the site and were given the chance to excavate.

July’s SOTM was the Steigelfadbalm Cave (canton of Luzern): an important Ice Age site. During the week-ends of July, the Archaeological Service of Luzern organised two guided tours. One of the excursions was cancelled because of bad weather, but the first one had a maximum of visitors. The tourism office proposed to integrate the cave visit in their walking tours of the Rigi, one of the most frequented mountains in Switzerland with 550’000 Swiss visitors a year.

On the Umbrail pass (2500m) lays the WWI frontline along the border with Italy and Austria (former Austria-Hungary). The remains of these unique Swiss alpine military camps and border fortifications were the SOTM of August (canton of Graubünden). On the 1st of August (Swiss national holiday) more than 50 people went to the site and took part in a guided tour, a luncheon and a visit to the museum. Other events included a conference and remembrance evening in the museum, another excursion and the museums night in the Benedictine Convent on the theme of “Frontiers”. The SOTM was largely present in the media.

In September the SOTM was the Roman villa of Pully (canton of Vaud). Many activities, like a Roman wine-tasting and brunch and a demonstration by professors and students of archaeology of Greek and Roman sports were activities proposed during the exhibition:"Archéo-test. À la recherche des gestes perdus". Thanks to the national communication and the website, SOTM contributed largely to its success.

The archaeological treasures of the Ermitage gardens in Arlesheim (canton of Basel-Landschaft) were the subject of Octobers SOTM. Guided tours were organised every week-end in October and the castle of Birseck was exceptionnally open for the public. New panels on the sites and an app were inaugurated also.

In November, visits to the site of the Roman Castrum of Yverdon-les-Bains (canton of Vaud) are proposed as to experience a heightened sense of reality on visits to the fortress ruins through new technologies usingyour own tablet or taking one out from the Tourist Information Office or the Museum of Yverdon. You can also explore the finds which have been made in the course of excavations of the site that are on display in the museum.

The next sites of the month are the well-known Laténium museum in Neuchâtel, the "Transitorisches Museum" in Pfyn (canton of Thurgau), the archaeological path of Bioggio in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, an ensemble of funerary sites throughout time in the city of Sion (canton of Valais), theruins of the castle of Rouelbeau in Geneva and the 17th century baths of Bad Weissenburg in the Bernese Alps.

After completion of the project the sites should remain accessible and, through close cooperation with the local tourism partners and institutions, remain a touristic point of interest. The communication tools (website, Facebook, Twitter) will continue after the end of the project. The website will become an information platform for as many sites as want to be included. It would be fantastic to have the information of all visitable sites in Switzerland included in the platform within a period of 10 years.

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