The archaeological collection of the Museum of Yverdon and its Region goes back to the 19th century. From the beginning of that century a number of private individuals started presenting the institution with objects that had been found by chance when people were digging or building in Yverdon. The second half of the century saw the first systematic archaeological excavations organised on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, at the sites of the lakeside settlements of Concise and Corcelettes near Grandson. They were conducted by Louis Rochat (1824-1882), who taught science at the town’s secondary school. He was passionate about archaeology and was also curator of the museum. He presented the institution with everything he found during his excavations.
The first excavations at the late Roman castrum, conducted in 1903 and 1906 under the direction of cantonal archaeologist Albert Naef, also produced a large number of items which considerably swelled the museum’s collections. Other archaeological finds were added to them later, including from the 1960s onwards the very rich prehistoric material from Yverdon’s Neolithic and Bronze Age lakeside sites in the avenue des Sports.
In 1953 the Canton of Vaud named the Museum of Yverdon and its Region legal depository for all Roman archaeological material found in the former district of Yverdon, and for finds from all other periods discovered in Yverdon and Cheseaux-Noréaz, (i.e. what used to be the administrative “cercle” of Yverdon). The museum’s archaeological collection therefore includes thousands of artefacts from Yverdon and the surrounding region covering practically all periods from the Neolithic to the Early Middle Ages (Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman period, Late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages).
Only a small selection of the objects is permanently on display; the remainder are kept in store.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, the Museum of Yverdon and its Region has housed and preserved typical objects that reflect the town’s cultural and artistic history. Over the last two centuries its collection has been regularly enlarged, mainly through private donations.
The museum currently owns a large stock of pictures, mainly works relating to Yverdon and its region from the 16th century up to the present day: more than 800 drawings, watercolours and engravings and a few dozen oil paintings. In addition it possesses a large number of old photographs of the 19th and 20th centuries, consisting of several remarkable collections (the Joseph Centurier, Théophile Benner and Jean Perusset archives). The museum also houses several hundred objects of various kinds: furniture, including about 30 items in the Yverdon style that constitute a reference set, tableware, costumes, scientific instruments, precious items and objects of everyday use, examples of local crafts and of the industries of Yverdon, such as Paillard, Leclanché and Vautier. All these objects reflect local practices, customs and traditions, and thus help to write the history of Yverdon and the region, the history of its art and its technology, its economy and its society.
Only a small percentage of the collection is permanently on display.
The museum’s collection of Egyptian antiquities goes back to 1896, when Edwin Simond (1856-1911), an agricultural engineer from Yverdon who was living and working in Alexandria at the time, donated the mummy of the priest Nes-Shou and his funerary equipment to the town of Yverdon. This ensemble from the Ptolemaic period (around 200 B.C.), consisting not only of the mummy of the dead man and his sarcophagus with its richly decorated casket and lid, but also of fragments of cartonnage and a Book of the Dead, is regarded by specialists as one of the most complete and most interesting held in Switzerland. It forms the heart of the collection, which was enriched in 1983 by an anonymous donor who presented the museum with nine pieces of exceptional quality. These include four remarkable stone statuettes which belonged to dignitaries living at the end of the Middle Empire, various bronze figurines and also a stele of archaic type dating from the Saite period. In 1993, the collection was further enlarged with 204 pieces bequeathed by the descendents of Edwin Simond.
Of the 400 or so objects from ancient Egypt held by the Museum of Yverdon and its Region, only one fifth is currently on show. The display focuses mainly on the mummy of Nes-Shou and his funerary equipment.
The Museum of Yverdon and its Region can boast of possessing a very interesting ethnography collection. In addition to several collections of artefacts brought back by citizens of Yverdon in the 19th and 20th centuries from their various travels in Asia or Africa, the institution also houses a remarkable set of Amerindian objects. The 25 or so pieces making up the collection are among the oldest and finest held anywhere in Switzerland. The collection, which was studied recently by Professor Christian Feest, director of the Museum of Ethnology in Vienna (Austria) consists of about ten pieces from the second half of the 18th century, while the remainder can probably be dated to the first half of the following century. All, or nearly all, of them apparently come from the Great Lakes area of North America. Unfortunately it is still not known how they came to be in the collection of the Yverdon Museum. In the absence of detailed information, it is supposed that some of them may have belonged to Frédéric Haldimand (1718-1791) of Yverdon, or to his colleague Henry Bouquet (1719-1765) of Aubonne, since both of them had brilliant careers in North America. The items are currently kept in the museum store and are therefore not on display.