Key-Visual der Ausstellung "Bundesräte"

Federal Councillors since 1848

Exhibition | accessibility.time_to


Since 1848, Switzerland has been governed by the Federal Council. But who are the people who direct the fate of the Swiss Confederation? Photographs, film clips, documents and clothing take visitors on a fascinating journey back in time to meet the 119 members of the nation’s government. At the centre of the exhibition, visitors can look around a replica of a Federal Council chamber. Another section of the exhibition showcases gifts received by the Swiss government from all over the world.


Switzerland’s Federal Councillors since 1848 – Introductory tour

Key-Visual der Ausstellung "Bundesräte"

Secondary levels I and II

Guided tour of the exhibition «Switzerland’s Federal Councillors since 1848».

1 hour
Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.

Guided tours in English can be arranged, even outside opening hours. Guided tours are free of charge for school classes from Switzerland.


at least 2 weeks in advance



1 hour guided tours, other services by prior arrangement

Group size:


max. 25 people



Guided tours for school classes from Switzerland are free of charge. Reservations desk

+41 44 218 66 00

Blog articles


Federal Councillors since 1848

National Museum Zurich | 14.2.2019 - 22.4.2019
published on 1.3.2021

For over 170 years now, seven people have governed the Swiss Confederation. But who were the men and, from 1984, the women who have held this high office? An exhibition at the National Museum Zurich introduces these important figures from our nation’s history.

Every four years, the United Federal Assembly elects seven Swiss citizens, both men and women, to the national government. The composition of the Federal Council is kept as balanced as possible. This applies for party and canton affiliation and for mother tongue and, for some years now, gender has also been an important consideration. But who are the 119 Swiss citizens who have steered the fate of the nation since 1848? The National Museum Zurich has lifted the curtain on this select group, and takes a closer look at the many individuals who have played their part.

There is Fridolin Anderwert, who committed suicide in 1880 after a destructive campaign against him in the press. And Emil Frey, who fought in the American Civil War and later took up a position in our national government without any difficulty, despite his status as a dual citizen. There’s Elisabeth Kopp, the first woman appointed to the Federal Council, and Constant Fornerod, who after his term in office managed a bank and was held responsible for its subsequent bankruptcy, an offence for which he served several years in prison. The exhibition tells these and other stories.

The centrepiece of the show is a replica of the Federal Council chamber. ‘Kollektiv Krönlihalle’, a group of Zurich artists, has reconstructed the room at almost two thirds of its actual size. So if you dream of someday being elected to the national government, you can come in and take a ‘test-sit’ here. Another section of the exhibition showcases gifts the Swiss Government has received over the years from all over the world. For example, the diary of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth is on display. Sisi, as she was known, bequeathed her diary to the Swiss Confederation because she was afraid her writings would be destroyed in her own country. In her diary entries she criticised life at court and the Austrian monarchy.


The Federal Council of 1848

The Federal Assembly elected the first seven Federal Councillors in 1848: Jonas Furrer, Ulrich Ochsenbein, Henri Druey, Josef Munzinger, Stefano Franscini, Friedrich Frey-Hérosé and Wilhelm-Matthias Näff

Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Graphics Collection and Photographic Archive

Federal Councillors open the National Exhibition in 1939

Federal President Philipp Etter (centre) in the ceremonial procession to mark the opening of the National Exhibition in Zurich, 1939. Left: Marcel Pilet-Golaz; right: Giuseppe Motta; at rear: Rudolf Minger

ETH Bibliothek Zurich, Image Archive

Federal Council tour 1973

The Federal Council on its annual ‘Reisli’ in 1973. Roger Bonvin, Federal President, welcomes the Federal Council to Valais. Foreground, from left to right: Karl Huber (Federal Chancellor), Walter Buser (Vice-Chancellor), Hans Peter Tschudi, Jean-Marc Sauvant (Vice-Chancellor), unidentified, Rudolf Gnägi, Kurt Furgler, Nello Celio, unidentified

Swiss National Museum

A gift to Federal Councillor Adolf Ogi

In 1993 the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Islam A. Karimov, gave Federal President Adolf Ogi a carpet.

Property of the Swiss Confederation, Federal Office of Culture, Bern.

The hat of authority

Throughout the coronavirus period, on his way to the media centre Federal Councillor Alain Berset, Minister of Health and senior crisis manager, has always worn a hat that has attracted attention throughout Switzerland.

Photo: Swiss National Museum

Federal Councillors visiting the National Museum in 2019

As part of the ‘Extra Muros’ meeting in 2019, the three female Federal Councillors, Viola Amherd, Karin Keller-Sutter and Simonetta Sommaruga (from left to right), pose for a photo with the Helvetia figure in the National Museum.

Photo: Swiss National Museum

Federal Council Chamber in miniature

The artists’ collective ‘Krönlihalle’ built a replica of the Federal Council Chamber at 60% of the original size.

Photo: Swiss National Museum

Federal Council Chamber in miniature – detail

Various objects from second-hand stores were used to emulate the wooden embellishments in the Federal Council Chamber.

Photo: Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

A view of the exhibition.

Swiss National Museum

Swiss National Museum press contact

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Exhibition imprint

  • Overall management Andreas Spillmann
  • Project directors and exhibition curators Marina Amstad, Pascale Meyer
  • Scientific consultancy Prof. Urs Altermatt, Dr. Thomas Zaugg
  • Exhibition design Atelier Gillmann + Co GmbH, Basel
  • Graphics Selina Locher, Andreas Hidber, Accent graphe Basel
  • Nachbau Bundesratssitzungszimmer Kollektiv Krönlihalle: Seraina Borner, Barbara Brandmaier, Markus Läubli, Christoph Menzi, Andrea Münch, Thomas Stächelin
  • Der Bundesratsfilm Regula Bochsler, Prismago GmbH, Adrian Kelterborn
  • Marketing & communication Andrej Abplanalp, Alexander Rechsteiner, Carole Neuenschwander, Sebastiano Mereu, Anna-Britta Maag
  • Technische Leitung | Direction technique | Direzione tecnica | Technical management Henrike Binder, Viola Valsesia
  • Exhibition installation Bachir Ezzerari, Kim Badertscher, Janine auf der Maur, Ladina Fait, Marc Häggeli, Mike Roder, David Schwitter
  • Light: Ursula Degen Marc Hägelin
  • Preparation and mounting of exhibits Elisabeth Kleine, Sarah Longrée, Veronique Mathieu, Tino Zagermann
  • Loans Maya Jucker, Angela Zeier
  • Cultural services and museum education Severin Marty, Stefanie Bittmann
  • Logistics of objects Christian Affentranger, David Blazquez, Simon D’Hollosy, Reto Hegetschweiler, Markus Scherer
  • IT | Web Thomas Bucher, Pasquale Pollastro, Danilo Rüttimann, René Vogel
  • Translations Laurence Neuffer, Nigel Stephenson, Tradukas AG

Items generously loaned by

  • Staatsarchiv Basel-Stadt
  • Kunstsammlungen des Bundes, Bern
  • Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Bern
  • Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv, Bern
  • Zentralbibliothek Zürich
  • Magdalena Schneider-Minger