Competent guides show visitors the historical machines.
TEXT: JESSICA HOLZHAUSEN I PHOTOS: BALLYANA
An exciting tale about Swiss industrial history:
From ribbon weaving to shoe fabrication A region’s history is often closely connected with the history of a single family or a local industrial sector. This is also the case in the Swiss village Schönenwerd, where the shoe manufacturer Bally has its origins. A foundation and related museum collect and exhibit historical objects – machines, products, pictures or diaries – to make history more tangible for visitors. The Ballyana Industrial Heritage museum offers visitors an authentic atmosphere and industrial history to touch: It is allowed to hold and touch many of the objects and the exhibition addresses all senses. “Leather also smells very good,” says Philipp Abegg about the raw material Bally used for decades to fabricate shoes. Abegg is the president of a foundation that was established in 2000, and runs the museum. Old industrial machinery is rattling in the background, because here machines are not only exhibited, but staff members also demonstrate how they work.“This is why we don’t have excessive opening times. Somebody always has to be there who knows how to handle the machinery,” Philipp Abegg explains. 36 | Issue 60 | March 2018
The collection opens every first and third Sunday of the month between 2pm and 5pm. Pre-booked guided tours are possible at any time. Industrial, company and family history are closely connected here. Even though Bally today is mainly known for its shoes, originally the company started as weaving mill and for the first 50 years exclusively produced ribbons. Shoes only came into focus after 1851. The Bally family originates in the Austrian Vorarlberg. The first Bally moved to Switzerland around 1760 and started trading with ribbons. The family settled in Schönenwerd
and slowly expanded the business. With a ribbon weaving mill and shoe factory they laid the foundation for an industrial empire and a world-renowned brand. The company and family history is presented in all its facets. After originally fabricating shoes to supply other retail shops, from 1910 onwards the company systematically opened its own shops. At that point Bally already existed for more than 100 years and was led in the fourth generation. This was accompanied by excessive advertising, as Philipp Abegg explains: “Posters, packages and promotional gifts are part of the exhibition and give an interesting historical context.”The strategy later proved successful: After the end of World War I, Bally shops could be found in Switzerland, England, Germany and the United States. Still today, Bally stands for luxurious bags, shoes and accessories.