Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge
Home > Tourist Guide > Table of contents > Geneva > Rive droite > Red cross museum

Musée de la Croix-Rouge (©_OTG)
Housed within the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), on a hill overlooking the UN at 17 Avenue de la Paix, the Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge(International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum: Mon & Wed–Sun 10am–5pm; Fr.10; SMP; www.icrc.org) is acclaimed as one of the best museums in Europe. Using highly effective video displays, slide-shows and interactive technology (always with an English-language option), it chronicles in detail the history of conflict in the twentieth century, and the role the Red Cross has played in providing aid to combatants and civilians caught up in both war and natural disasters. The displays are strikingly affecting, always using clear single images to tell a story instead of swamping you with facts and figures, and always avoiding judgement or ideological point-scoring. You shouldn’t miss it on even the shortest trip to Geneva.

You enter through a trench in the hillside opposite the UN, emerging into an enclosed glass courtyard, surrounded by reflected images of yourself beside a group of stone figures, bound and blindfolded, representing the continual worldwide violation of human rights. Inside, above the ticket desk, is a quotation from Dostoievsky – “Everyone is responsible to everyone else for everything.” The museum’s very useful audioguide (Fr.5) takes you through the eleven undemarcated sections, all packed into a small floor area, which piece together in chronological order the history of kindness, from the Good Samaritan and Saladin to the experiences of Genevan businessman Henry Dunant which prompted him to found the Red Cross. Travelling in northern Italy in June 1859, Dunant found himself caught up in the Battle of Solferino, and was shocked to be brought face to face with the reality of the battlefield. With little or no provision to help the wounded, thousands perished where they fell, and Dunant returned to Geneva determined to take action. His tireless campaigning over five years resulted in the signing by the major powers of the first Geneva Convention in 1864, which, for the first time laid down guidelines for the conduct of war, and which led directly to international co-operation in the creation of the Red Cross.

In one area of the museum are ranged aisle after aisle of record cards from World War I – an astonishing seven million of them – detailing prisoners’ particulars in order that they could be traced and reunited with their families. In another is a reconstructed cell, 3m by 2m, which an ICRC delegate reported housed seventeen prisoners – 34 footprints on the cell floor only go some way towards helping imagine the conditions. Also memorable is the eye-opening Wall of Time, an ingenious representation of those wars and natural disasters which have killed more than 100,000 people, year by year since the Red Cross’s foundation: as you reach the second half of the century, the dizzyingly long lists of wars around the world tell their own, sombre story.

A final note of achievement: despite its skill and artistry, the museum’s construction didn’t use a penny of Red Cross funds, relying solely on outside donors.

© Micheloud & Cie 2013     No part of this site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without our prior written permission. Printed from http://Switzerland.isyours.com/e/guide/geneva/redcross.html