In 1851 C.F. Bally founded a shoe factory in Schönenwerd in the Canton of Solothurn that was later to make his name an international brand. After the first years of manual production, the shoe factory soon found itself in a growth phase and profited more than most companies in the world from technical developments in leather processing. By about 1900 the factory was already fully mechanized. Many historical machines have been preserved as witnesses of their time by the company or have otherwise found their way into the Ballyana Collection, among them the oldest Swiss Sulzer steam engine from 1862.
The Bally Foundation for Family and Company History was established in 2000 in order to preserve and protect the legacy of the family and the factory. It collects documents, objects and machinery and endeavors to preserve and to promote the industrial and historical heritage of the Schönenwerd region, with special emphasis on the Bally Company. In the permanent exhibition, redesigned in 2015, the museum displays the history, background and accomplishments of industrial shoemaking and the Bally shoe product. The museum was put on the Swiss Heritage Foundation's list of the "Fifty Most Beautiful Swiss Museums" in 2016. In addition to the museum, the historical machinery collection offers a further opportunity to immerse oneself in the history of the industrial age. Textile and shoemaking machines have been restored and are fully functional; there are demonstrations for visitors in guided tours. At the end of 2016 the machinery collection was expanded to include additional exhibits.
The Board of Trustees awards a project grant of CHF 20,000 for the restoration and repair of historical shoemaking and weaving machines in order to expand the machinery collection.