This unique museum narrates the story of the straw braiding craft that became a booming industry in the rural Swiss region of Argovia between the late 18th century up until the 1960s. This unassuming and ubiquitous byproduct of crop farming played a key role in the history of fashion design, as Swiss artisans supplied the global market with extraordinarily desired straw hats for some 200 years.
The manufacture of braided straw hats started off as a small cottage industry, when poor farmers decided to make some extra income at home by spending the nights crafting various straw products. In the 19th century, this semi-professional craft was industrialized, farmers became factory workers, and their products were gradually sold across the globe. Not only hats, but also laces, ribbons, and all kinds of ornamental trimmings were produced in painstaking and technically demanding needlework and handcraft. The farmers showed incredible engineering skills by inventing all kind of machines to make their compartmentalized work easier.
Besides hats and other accessories, the exhibition of the Straw Museum (or Strohmuseum im Park in German) in the Swiss town of Wohlen includes historical machines and tools, oral history testimonies of former straw factory workers, posters advertising the chic straw accessories throughout different fashion eras, and several crafting stations where visitors can try their own straw braiding skills.
The museum itself is located inside the beautiful Villa Isler, which was built by one of the wealthy owners of a straw hat braiding factory in the 1860s. The villa is surrounded by a spacious park that hosts some impressive trees. Among them are yews, magnolias, and ginkgo trees that grace the garden throughout the seasons.
Know Before You Go
The museum is located only 5 minutes from Wohlen train station. It is open Wednesday to Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.