I was walking down a cobbled street with the width of the outstretched arms of, say, Amitabh Bachchan. I was on my way to see the world’s smallest museum — in Nadleberg in the Old Town of Basel, Switzerland.
Basel is a perfect blend of the old and the new. Spread over an area of 23.91 km, it has a population of 1.6 lakh and 40 museums. My hometown in India has a population of 1.23 crore and six museums.
Somewhere in the middle of the winding lane, my Swiss companion stopped abruptly in front of Door number 31. And there it was. The Hoosesagg Museum. All of 10 sqft or 0.000247105 acres. The world’s smallest museum housed in a little display case on the main door of the two-storeyed house of Dagmar Vergeat. The museum opened in 1995.
Centuries ago, the house belonged to the first midwife of Basel. Interestingly, every time she had to deliver a baby, she had to obtain permission from three wise men in the Town Hall. Sometimes, human actions defy human logic. Moving on, because of its interesting backstory, the landmark house turned into a tourist magnet. They came in droves, trotting down the narrow lane, peering into Vergeat’s home trying to catch a glimpse of life through its glass doors. Fed up with this intrusion of their privacy, Vergeat and her husband decided to do something. Instead of hanging curtains on the door, they turned it into a display case and began exhibiting small items. “Give people something to look at really.”
Now, every month, there’s a new exhibition. So far, the museum has seen exhibition themes ranging from the Beatles to Fiats to hydrometers, village life, history, art, Pokemon and so on. Anyone can exhibit at the Hoosesagg Museum for free. The only condition is that the exhibits should fit in a trouser pocket. According to Swiss pockets, that would be around 30 small items.
If only I were wearing a trouser filled with 30 miniature cows, I could have then had an exhibition at the museum called ‘Mai ke Gaus — with love from India’!
(Sudha Pillai is a solo traveller, writer, photographer and artist. She blogs at www.asunnysquare.com)