The very beginning

Evelyn Ortner (1944-1997), born in Vorarlberg/Austria, is the foundress of the Women’s Museum in Merano. The story of her own life is closely linked to the concept of the museum.

Already at the age of 17 she captured a passion for collecting items. When she moved to Merano in 1968, she soon started to get vigorously involved in the cultural life of the city. By opening the first second hand shop in South Tyrol, she has drawn much attention of the entire region to herself.

Under the Arcades of Merano, Lauben no. 68, she rented rooms in 1988 and exhibited her private collection as a so-called „Kleines Museum für Kleid und Tand” (Small Museum of Dress and Trumpery). In 1993, she legalized the private museum by an association, the so-called „Frauenmuseum – Die Frau im Wandel der Zeit“ (Women’s Museum – The Woman Through the Ages), and became its managing director. In 1997, Evelyn Ortner died after a serious illness at the age of only 52. She left behind a Women’s Museum whose tasks and activities would deepen in the course of the next decades and would be networking worldwide.



Many women and also some men are in it from the very start until this day with eagerness, diligence and inspired by the same objective – often with a lot of volunteer commitment and willingness to make sacrifices in order to support the foundress during her lifetime and to maintain the Women’s Museum.

The Women’s Museum has specialized with its cultural and everyday history focus in women’s and gender history from the 19th century to the present day. The history of women’s images and roles is now documented and demonstrated under the aspect of gender as well as the gender classification of private and public.

Through the window of the narrative means “clothing, accessories and everyday objects” the following emphases developed in the course of time and social change:

  • End of the 1980s: the emancipation of women
  • In the 1990s: gender issues
  • Since the year 2000: gender history and gender justice.

Furthermore, the museum has developed into an interactive cultural center, which today, with many exhibitions on the most up-to-date topics, cultural events and interesting events, is a platform for encounters and exchanges for people of all ages from all cultures.


Milestones of the work of the Women’s Museum in Meran


2018 The Women’s Museum celebrates its 30th anniversary

  • March: Celebration together with the many donors, members of the association, and benefactors;
  • November: Conference with the title “What does equality have to do with peace, culture, and democracy?” with women from associated fields as well as representatives from other women’s museums.

Participation in the EU-Project »She culture« together with other women’s museums and gender related organizations.

The legal seat of the International Association of Women’s Museums (IAWM) moves to the Women’s Museum in Merano due to administrative reasons.


The Women’s Museum takes part in the inaugural meeting of the International Association of Women’s Museums (IAWM) in Alice Springs (Australia). Official appointment of Astrid Schönweger as coordinator of the Association.


2011: Opening of the women’s museum in new premises

2011: Opening of the temporary exhibition Women’s Museums worldwide as part of an EU project in collaboration with the Women’s Museum Meran

First broadcasting of the documentation »Frauenaktivistinnen im Iran und ihre Brücken zu Südtirol« (Women Activists of Iran and their Bridges to South Tyrol)


The Women’s Museum moves to the former monastery of the Poor Clares at the Piazza del Grano

  • On the occasion of the 20th anniversary: Organization of the “1st International Conference of Women’s Museums” in Merano. The godmother of this event, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shirin Ebadi, as well as 25 representatives of all five continents participate in the conference. It is the beginning of a worldwide collaboration and networking with women’s museums and initiatives.

  • Award of the Human-Rights-International (HRI)-Prize to Nasrin Sotoudeh (lawyer and human rights defender from Iran), that has been awarded in collaboration with the Women’s Museum.


Sissi Prader takes over the management of the Women’s Museum.


Foundation of the South Tyrolean Association of Museums with the registered office in the Women’s Museum. Sissi Prader became president for several legislatures and contributed to the build-up of the association. Today she is Vice President of the association. Since several years the seat is in the provincial department of museums in Pascolistraße 2/a, Bozen.


Extension of the Women’s Museum and of the museum’s depot under the Arcades of Merano


Agreement to form a partnership with the Women’s Museum Henriette Bathily in Senegal


Announcement of the „Jahr der Frauenkultur” (Year of Women’s Culture) on occasion of the 10th anniversary of the museum. Throughout the year various events are organized together with women and organizations. Astrid Schönweger invited the networker Sissi Prader to collaborate.


Evelyn Ortner dies way too young with 52 years. The association made sure that the museum exists until today


Foundation of a legal association


Start of Astrid Schönweger’s collaboration


Foundation of the Women’s Museum by Evelyn Ortner