The museum




Geographical and historical contexts

Mouscron is located at the hinge of two borders: one geopolitical between France and Belgium, the other linguistic between the Walloon and Flemish Regions. Historically, the textile industry took off here in the middle of the 19th century, leading to waves of cross-border population migration and a radical transformation of the rural landscape into a town. Today, the agglomeration is part of the Lille-Kortrijk-Tournai metropolitan area.

The Museum of Folklore was founded in 1953 by Léon Maes as a municipal institution with the aim of collecting and promoting local objects and traditions that were being lost as a result of post-war social change. At the turn of the century, it became clear that the building housing the collections, a bourgeois house dating from 1885, had too many shortcomings in relation to the potential of the institution, which was constantly becoming more professional, developing its missions, consolidating its socio-cultural roots and generating quality services for the benefit of users.

Extension and new infrastructure project

The trigger for the extension and renovation project was the recognition and subsidy of the museum by the Directorate of Cultural Heritage of the Ministry of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation in 2008 and therefore the standards to be reached in terms of infrastructure and mediation for the collections and the public.

A SWOT analysis of the museum's operations and a survey of fed the reflection on a new programme based on the missions of an institution particularly anchored in its cross-border territory and at the service of a multicultural population. An enormous shift was then taking place: that of daring to nurture new museum and societal ambitions and therefore to make considerable investments both in human and financial terms. After a favourable ministerial agreement in principle on the project, a European-wide architectural services contract is launched, which will designate the project team V+ (architecture - Brussels) and Projectiles (scenography - Paris), surrounded by offices specialised in special techniques, environmental measures and landscaping. This stage will then initiate a cycle of long-term reflection, punctuated by numerous fruitful meetings between the project owner, the municipal and regional services concerned and even, at certain times, future users.


Architectural vision for museum innovation

The vision of the project is to rely on the resolutely contemporary character of the new infrastructures, which stand out for their originality, simplicity and modernity, thus breaking the outdated label often attached to ethnology museums in order to open up the viewer's eyes and raise interconnected issues of quality, both in terms of the functionality of the buildings and the services offered to the public. Architecture has thus been placed at the service of society, making it possible to create links and proximity around shared histories and collective knowledge.

The white volume of the new building, with its horizontal, elongated and crenellated profile, is set along a paved alley, as if in dialogue with the surrounding buildings. The fully glazed reception hall identifies the museum as an open and attractive place, inviting people to visit. In the heart of the garden, a pavilion, whose restoration has respected the original character, is a haven for groups taking part in workshops and courses. Cultures of "heritage" plants are linked to the collections on display inside the museum.

The scenography has chosen to keep a domestic scale of presentation for these vernacular collections which evoke daily life, social practices, working class culture, know-how linked to crafts and trades as well as the intangible heritage of our cross-border territory. Moreover, the MUSEF offers the particularity of a cross management of five types of heritage: movable - documentary - oral - immaterial - natural, which weaves multiple intercultural and multidisciplinary links. The objects are not sacralised but are skilfully organised and simply displayed. The explanatory labels are based on the thousands of testimonies kept in the Documentation Centre and thus ensure a fundamental transmission from generation to generation.


Serving all audiences

As the local geo-socio-economic context does not favour a "mass tourism development" approach, the MUSEF positions itself as a "local social development" actor by concentrating its missions at the service of the community. As a municipal museum, we adhere to the values of public service, integrate policies in favour of accessibility to culture for all and carry out multidisciplinary projects that favour the decompartmentalisation of sectors.

The mediation offer is abundant and varied thanks to a quality programme that aims at active and original heritage discoveries. Scientific projects, school activities, family tours, workshops and courses, and the creation of events seek to reach all visitor profiles, with particular attention to young people and audiences with special needs (people with disabilities, applicants for international protection, newcomers, citizens in social and professional reintegration, residents of retirement homes). 


The futur

Our vision of services to the various publics, professional management and both cultural and civic missions aim at the eminence of monumental investment, even if the ambition of the Museum of Folklore Border Life will always remain simply human and accessible.