The smallest museum in Basel, Switzerland, is a two-foot-by-two-foot window in the door of a 600-year-old house. Since 1995, collections of everyday objects and memorabilia—toothbrushes, Pez dispensers, porcelain shoes, Pokémon—have rotated through the window of the Pants Pocket Museum (Hoosesagg Museum).
Located in Imbergässlein (Ginger Alley), a narrow pedestrian alley in Old Town Basel, the museum was the homeowners’ solution to the prying eyes of passersby. Walking tours frequently stopped outside the house, for its historical value—it was the home of Basel’s first midwife—and for its facade, which includes a painting of St. Christopher.
Tourists’ eyes often wandered to the windows of the house’s ground floor room. So the homeowners, Dagmar and Matthias Vergeat, built a display case that fit over the window pane in the door and installed a selection of schnapps glasses. “We left [them] for three, four, five months, and then thought, ‘It’s boring, always having the same thing,’” Dagmar says.
The Vergeats began rotating different assortments of items through the window. Their collections of Swiss cowbells, doorbell buttons, sunglasses, and nativity scene figurines, to name a few, include “several thousand” items, in Dagmar’s estimation. After about six months, strangers began asking if the couple would exhibit their collections. The Vergeats named their window the Pants Pocket Museum, because most items displayed could fit in a pocket. Today, the Pants Pocket Museum invites anyone with a collection of 30 or more items to exhibit them in the tiny museum.
Know Before You Go
The Pants Pocket Museum is located at 31 Imbergässlein, a two-minute walk from Basel's Marktplatz. Imbergässlein is a pedestrian alley with stairs.