Since late March 2015, we have been able to locate almost 30 extant hotel and inn guestbooks in Switzerland. We first prospected in the Canton of Neuchâtel area, where we only found one guestbook: the livre d’or de l’Hôtel de la Fleur de Lys in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is on deposit at the history museum of the city. In Neuchâtel, we also came across the Carnet de l’officier de la garde in the communal archives, in which we discovered lists of foreigners staying in hotels and inns of the city between 1769-1770. We have not been able yet to track down prospective guestbooks for the Grand Hôtel Bellevue, in which Miss Jemima Morrell stayed in 1863.
Previous research conducted by Kataryna Michaelkiewicz helped us track down several guestbooks in canton Valais, from which we obtained digitized samples, including from the Mont Cervin Hotel, the Hotel Nest und Bietschorn and the Hotel Riffelberg.
We also began searching through online archive catalogs to identify guestbooks on the whole Swiss territory. One of our best online « discoveries » is the livres des passants of the Grand-Saint-Bernard hospice, which regroups no less than 36 guestbooks, covering a period of more than one and a half century (1812-1970) and whose scans are available online. Here is the link : http://www.gsbernard.ch/60/passants/index.html
Charles Dickens’s entry on 3 September 1846, Livre des passants, Hospice du Grand-Saint-Bernard (photo courtesy of the Congrégation du Saint-Bernard)
The next step in our research will take us to other areas of French-speaking Switzerland. We will focus our attention on Lausanne and Geneva, where we hope to identify more guestbooks, as well as continuing to search for hotel guestbooks along Jemima Morrell’s route. At the same time, we are working on developing collaborations with institutions related to the history of Swiss tourism, and we are reaching out to other research groups in Switzerland. We are happy to announce that Professor Rafael Matos-Wasem of the HES-SO Wallis, an expert on the history of tourism, has joined us, and that we will be hosting Professor Kevin James of the University of Guelph, Canada, an authority on guestbook history, next fall.