Maison d’Ailleurs, or the “House of Elsewhere,” revolves around extraordinary journeys—of the mind, at least. It is a museum of science fiction, utopias, and other futurist writings.
The museum has had an intense history since its creation in 1976. Pierre Versins, an archivist who collected works of science fiction and related memorabilia, donated his archives to the city of Yverdon-les-Bains, which created the museum. Though originally located in a three-story townhouse, in 1991 the collection was moved to a more impressive location: a former prison built in 1806 in the middle of the city. Unfortunately, in 1995 the city cut the museum’s budget, and most of the staff were dismissed. A foundation was created to manage the museum in 1998, and a new director, Patrick Gyger, was named to coordinate the efforts.
Today, its archives contain around 70,000 documents related to science fiction as well as all things futuristic—books, art pieces, toys—including some very old, unique pieces, a few dating back to the sixteenth century. The collections of the museum are also used for iconographic purposes and research (literature, the history of ideas, design, and so on). And the museum houses one of the world’s most important collections of documentation about French writer Jules Verne.
In 2008, the museum premiered a new wing dedicated entirely to Jules Verne and early science fiction. It also presents two to three temporary exhibitions per year, centered on the main themes of science fiction - cities of the future (both utopian and dystopian), space travel and aliens, lost worlds, etc.—and the artists who rendered them beautifully.
Maison d’Ailleurs is a resource that not only catalogues our ever-changing vision of the future, but preserves it for our actual future, so that those who come after may understand something about us—an opportunity any science fiction writer can surely appreciate.
Obscura Day location: April 9, 2011.