"Mountains are the bigger cathedrals in the world, with their portals of rock, the mosaics of clouds, the choirs of streams, the altars of snow, the vaults of purple glittering with stars.”
May 18th 2021 is the International Museum Day: Asolo Team gathered in a guide the most famous museums dedicated to the mountains, to their stories, culture and tradition, in Italy and in the world.
Which of these museums would you like to visit?
Also called the “museum in the clouds” for its panoramic view, the Messner Mountain Museum Dolomites rises on the Monte Rite (2181 m), in the earth of the Dolomites, between Cadore and Cortina d’Ampezzo. It was set up inside a restored Italian fort of the Great War.
Dedicated to the “rock”, it tells the story of the exploration and the Dolomites alpinism and it collects some witnesses of the origin of the dolomite rock such as shells or palm ferns fossils of millions of years ago, which remind the coral reefs of the primitive tropical sea.
In the central gallery are exhibited paintings and artworks from the Romanticism to the contemporary art, belonged to Reinhold Messner, that represent the Dolomites: artistic views that alternate themselves to the panoramic shots you can take from the museum windows on the surroundings peaks (from mountains around Belluno, to Monte Civetta and Pelmo, from Marmolada to the Ampezzo Dolomites.
Curiosity: The observatory at the top of the museum was built ex novo on a previous structure with metal elements and highly trasparent glass; it seems to reproduce the Dolomite crystal, with the edges each facing one of the great surrounding dolomitic peaks.
Place: Italy, Monte Rite (Veneto)
The Mountain Messner Museum Ortles remembers the crevasses of a glacier, with his underground architectural structure and it is located in Solda (1900 m), at the foot of the great Ortles massif.
The central space of the museum is situated inside a small hill, at which you can access from a great opening cut into the retaining wall of the hill and covered by stone. A ramp descends towards an artificial cave in exposed reinforced concrete; the light arrives from the top trough a glazed band which crosses the ceiling as well as a glacier’s crevasse.
The museum is dedicated to the icing and darkness worlds and tells the myths of the snow-man, of the third polo, in a journey among two centuries of history of ice equipment, skiing, ice climbing and expeditions to the Poles.
Curiosity: Near the museum there is a 400 years’ farm, the Yak & Yeti, where you can eat some typical dishes of Alto-Adige and Himalaya, while in the center of Solda, an ancient shelter for alpinists hosts the Alpine Curiosa, a little museum with some curious objects, such a rock from the Monte Kailash peak, the climbing chisel of Comici or the Bonatti’s rucksack.
Place: Italy, Solda (Trentino Alto-Adige)
Overlooking the Linz and Ortles Dolomites, the Marmolada and the Zillertal peaks, the Mountain Messner Museum Corones, is located in Plan de Corones (2275 m) and was designed by the architect Zaha Hadid.
Inside, the museum retraces - throughout relics, quotes, paintings and sculptures - the evolution of the modern mountaineering, the improvements on the equipment over time, the triumphs and the tragedies on the most famous mountains in the world and the representations of non sportif enterprises and the great figures of mountaineering, as Messner himself said.
Dedicated to the queen discipline of the mountaineering, the Traditional Adventure Alpinism, characterized by the same Reinhold Messner, the museum is a silent place, where you can retire yourself and enjoy unforgettable landscapes, a real experiential place.
Curiosity: Each one of the four balconies of the museum offers a different panoramic view, showing some relevant peaks in the history of the Dolomitic alpinism and Messner’s too, such as the Sasso of Santa Croce (one of his first ascents): they seem just like four big “eyes” to the mountains for the visitors.
Place: Italy, Plan de Corones (Trentino Alto-Adige)
The National Mountain Museum “Duca degli Abruzzi” is located on the top of the Monte dei Cappuccini, a panoramic position that overlooks Turin and its surrounding Alps.
The museum is divided into four areas; at the beginning it reflects on how the mountain has gone from a hostile place full of mystery to a seat of civilizations able to cultivate the sense of beauty. From the difficulty of the Romans to cross the Alps, is told the history of the mountain, which from an unreachable place, it began also the seat of the daily tourism, we all know.
Another section of the museum tells the story of the mountaineering from the first ascents of the late XXXVIII century to the birth of the mountain tourism in the next century. Symbols of the mountaineering which changes over time are the bivouacs, that from single shelters began comfortable huts, such as the ropes, now much more durable than the first ones and the peg, which only after several years has been recognized as a faithful tool for a mountaineer.
Curiosity: The museum was established in 1874 by the first members of the Club Alpino Italiano (CAI), which was founded the year before in Turin, after the Quintino Sella ascent of the Monviso, with the mission of bringing the young people in the mountains and spread the mountaineering values and the importance of the scientific survey on the Alps.
Place: Italy, Turin
The Monte Lagazuoi is a real “castle of rock” with spiers, towers, military bases and shelters for weapons and men, hidden inside it and excavated by the Austro Hungarian and Italian armies during the Great World War.
Now you can visit the galleries, the trenches and the machine gun positions, restored along the path of the Open Air Museum of the Great War, which arrives at the mountain top through different ways.
On the top station of the cable car you can see the Austrian positions of the ridge, while you can retrace the ancient front line during the war, taking the broad Sentiero del Fronte. A different experience could be walking through the Anticima Gallery, almost a kilometre long, a mine tunnel dug by the Italian soldiers and then detonated in June 1917. More demanding, at times exposed but equipped with fixed ropes, is the Kaiserjäger Path, a communication route for the transport of food, ammunition and materials from the valley floor and high-altitude positions.
The Lagazuoi is the centre of a museum area of 5 km, accessible on foot or by cable car, which includes also some territories of the surrounding mountains: the Open Air Museum of the Cinque Torri, where a command of the mountain artillery group of the Italian army was established, the Sass de Stria, a post of the Austrian defence and the Forte dei Tre Sassi, an Austrian fort, now museum with witnesses of the soldiers’ equipment.
Curiosity: During the summer, some visits to the Lagazuoi paths are organized in company with alpine guides, specialized historian in the Great War, but also with historical reenactors wearing the uniform of the Tiroler Kaiserjäger III Regiment, perfectly equipped; with them it is possible to visit Edelweiss and Cima Gallina posts.
Place: Italy, Monte Lagazuoi (Veneto)
Located in Pokhara, Nepal, the International Mountain Museum (IMM) records, documents and exhibits the past and present developments related to the mountaineering activities around the world and celebrates the Himalayan history, geography, culture and tradition.
The Mountain Gallery displays photographs on each of the 14 world’s 8,000-meter peaks from Nepal and Tibet to Pakistan together with witnesses of the high-altitude flora and fauna of the Himalayan ecosystem.
The Mountain People Gallery is dedicated to the indigenous cultures who depend on the mountains as a source of life, with a main focus on the Sherpa: horsemen and traders, descended from Tibet, who reside across the Khumbu and famous to be guides and porters and for having developed innovative techniques to farm at high altitude or to build resilient villages.
The Mountain Activities Gallery celebrates Himalayan mountaineering, displaying historical equipment from the first ascents of the 8,000-meter peaks to the early 2000s.
Curiosity: A small section provides a reflection on the human effect on the mountains and the importance of the environment preservation: there is a collection of trash left by expeditions on Everest over three seasons.
Place: Nepal, Pokhara
Founded at the end of the 19th century, the Alpine Museum preserves and displays more than 11,000 artefacts from the 18th to the middle of the 20th century, that showcase the historical and artistic heritage of the Mont Blanc region.
The exhibition allows the exploration of the history of the Chamonix valley, from the rural way of life of the native populations to the early days of mountaineering and the conquest of Mont Blanc.
The museum itinerary continues with the history of great scientific studies at 4,000 metres altitude, from which started the exploration of the unknown mountain world, up to the development of winter and summer sports and the transformation of the valley with the development of tourism.
A section of the museum is dedicated to the exhibition of some artworks which show the suggestions of painters, sculptors and photographs took from the observation and the life in the mountains. The exploration of the high mountains really began in the 18th century for scientific reasons.
Curiosity: The museum is hosted in a magnificent palace, which once was a luxury hotel in the Chamonix valley, the “Chamonix Palace”, which right now dominates the valley mountain landscape.
Place: France, Chamonix
The American Alpine Club and the National Geographic Society established the American Mountaineering Museum and dedicated it, after he passed in 2007, to Bradford Washburn, an American mountaineer, cartographer, artist and photographer who first surveyed Alaska’s mountains by air and created maps of peaks such as Denali and Everest.
The museum houses collections of relics, maps and photographs about the American mountaineering story both in North America and abroad. The mission of this place is to display how mountaineering was a part of American culture, from first ascents in Alaska and the Himalayas to a section dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division, the famed infantry who fought across the Austrian and Italian alpine terrain in World War II.
The American Alpine Club has also a library of over 20,000 books, maps, films, photographs, archiving guidebooks, hand-written route maps and documents of mountain culture and exploration.
Curiosity: An object present in the museum is the wooden ice axe used by the American mountaineer Pete Schoeing during the famous act known ‘The Belay’ (1953): he was able to save his five members of the climbing group, who were falling down to the Everest during an ice storm.
Place: USA, Golden (Colorado)