Just down the road from Saint-Chinian, on the way to Beziers, lies the village of Puisserguier. Puisserguier is one of those villages which I have passed through countless times, always on the way to somewhere else. I’m sure you also know a few places like that? BUT – Puisserguier has several attractions worth stopping for, and I am going to tell you about one of them in this post: the Ecomusee de la vie d’autrefois.
An ecomuseum is the museographic name for a museum concept which deals with cultural heritage, both material, i.e. displays of objects, and immaterial, such as skills.
The ‘ecomuseum of life in bygone days’ is located in four rooms of an old schoolhouse and the adjacent school playground. The subtitle of the ecomuseum in Puisserguier is Centre de Ressources des Memoires, the resource centre of memories. The exhibition does exactly what the subtitle hints at, displaying over 300 objects which have been collected/donated by volunteers, and are arranged to give an idea of what life might have been like in a bygone age.
The displays are arranged by trades. Here you have a selection of items which would have been sold and used in the epicerie, the grocery store:
Every display has a “hook”, which provides a link to local history. The photograph, which is tied into the grocery store display, shows a local shopkeeper in her shop. Some of the exhibits have come from that very same shop!
Here is the pharmacy:
The mercerie has a great selection of items from a haberdasher’s shop:
The coiffeur shows what a hairdressing salon would have looked like, along with the tools which were used to style and cut people’s hair. Those wash basins don’t look too comfortable, do they??
One of the rooms has been set up as a kind of reading room, where folders upon folders, containing all kinds of information, are waiting to be consulted.
In the schoolroom next door, an exam, typical of those given autrefois was being administered – I was asked whether I wanted to give it a go, but I declined – I’m not sure that my French would have been up to it!
The displays continued outside, in what used to be the playground for the school. A garage workshop had been set up under the cover of the old playground shelter:
A long, low building in the courtyard housed a great display of domestic paraphernalia.
Inside, it was brimming over with “stuff” – there was so much to look at!!
Here is la toilette – from a time when most houses did not have bathrooms! The bucket under the wash stand was for what used to be called “night soil”. I leave you to work that one out! 🙂
The kitchen corner had an amazing array of pots, pans, crocks and implements!
Entertainment from a bygone era – definitely pre-digital!!
A well stocked linen closet, such as this one, would require a lot of work to keep everything looking good. The foot-powered sewing machine was a big improvement on hand-sewing, but laundry was usually done by hand! How did they get the sheets to be so snowy-white??
The exhibition is completed by a large selection of tools used in the vineyards:
The ecomuseum in Puisserguier is open on Fridays from 10am to 12noon, and on Mondays from 3pm to 5.30pm, or by appointment. Entry is free, so why not make a point of stopping in Puisserguier and see for yourself – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too!