The history of the Écomusée d’Alsace, from the past to the present

  • 1971 Creation of the Maisons paysannes d'Alsace association

    In 1971 the traditional Alsatian architectural heritage was coming under severe threat and a group comprising mainly young students in history and archaeology, decided to act to maintain and preserve this heritage.

    The first action was to restore houses in the southern Alsace village of Gommersdorf, which had either been abandoned or were earmarked for demolition. The operation set off a reaction which resulted, in 1973, in the creation of the Maisons Paysannes d’Alsace association.

  • 1980 Finding a suitable location

    Many buildings could not be preserved where they stood, and the association came up with the ambitious idea of dismantling and subsequently reconstructing them exactly as they were, in an open-air museum, along the lines of the one created by Georges-Henri Rivière and Hugues de Varine

    After a long search, a suitable location was eventually found for the project, halfway between Mulhouse and Colmar, on land provided by the village of Ungersheim. The association's volunteers used it for reconstructing the houses which had been dismantled in villages in southern Alsace.

  • 1980 Reconstruction of the first house

    The first house to be rebuilt on the newly-acquired land was the labourer's house of Koetzingue, in September 1980. The then president of the General Council of the Haut Rhin département, Henri Goetschy, wanted to use this first house to test the skills and determination of the Maisons paysannes d’Alsace volunteers. Impressed by the results, the département decided to set up a long-term partnership with the Association. The foundations of the Ecomusée had been laid!

  • 1980 to 1984 Additional houses are reconstructed

    19 additional houses were rebuilt on the site, representing the main architectural styles of rural Alsace. The houses were selected as representative of different facets of Alsatian heritage. Each of them shows specific features of Alsace and its habitants over a given timescale.

  • 1984 The museum opens to the public

    The Ecomusée d'Alsace opened its doors on 1 June 1984 and was inaugurated shortly afterwards by the then Minister of Culture, Jack Lang.

    At the time, the museum contained some 20 buildings, most of which were still in the finishing stages. The idea proved to be a resounding success, with some 75,000 visitors in the first year. This allowed the association to continue the work and also to bring in thousands of household articles, donated by the local population and including furniture, clothes, documents and photographs, to decorate the interiors of the houses.

  • 1985-1987 Reconstruction of the Tour forte (fortified tower)

    The Tour forte or fortified tower, was reconstructed in the museum using fragments dating back to the late 15th century, taken from the mediaeval ramparts of the city of Mulhouse. Restoration finished in 1987 and the building stands over the village, offering an exceptional view over the whole of the Écomusée d’Alsace and its surroundings.

  • 1989 Reconstruction of the Moosch sawmill

    The sawmill is a vital element of a village and plays a key role, especially for the wood industry. The museum’s sawmill has been built from parts taken from those owned by Wicky, in Moosch, and by Gebel, in Dolleren.

  • 1994 Opening of the Potter’s house

    The Potter’s house was originally located in Soufflenheim, the pottery village in the Bas-Rhin département, and dates back to the 18th century. The house replicates the precise conditions in which its owner worked. The museum’s potter, works in the same way as the potters of previous centuries, creating traditional Alsatian pottery.

  • 2014 The Écomusée d'Alsace celebrates its 30th anniversary!

    Celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Écomusée d’Alsace saw a package of 30 fun, unusual and offbeat challenges set by the museum’s employees and volunteers. In one challenge, the frame of a half-timber house from Rixheim had to be put up in 30 hours, in another, 30 bearded men were shaved in record time by the museum’s barbers while a third one had 30 photos of Alsatian families taken in poses and clothing of the time. The challenges were a marvellously fun way of celebrating the history of the museum.

  • 2014 Building starts on the first Alsatian house of the 21st-century

    What will the Alsatian house of the future look like? 2014 saw the Écomusée d’Alsace turn its attention to the future, with the construction of a new area on the outskirts of the village dedicated to life in the 21st-century. The first house, designed by Alsatian architect Mathieu Winter, was the starting point for a dialogue between traditional and contemporary housing, the conjugation of the past and the future.

  • 2015 Repair of the sawmill waterwheel

    The museum’s sawmill, which was reconstructed in 1989, had been very sparingly used since 2006. The wheel is one of the mill’s 3 energy sources and was in a poor state of repair. In 2014, museum volunteers took up the task of repairing and reassembling the wheel to bring it back to operational health in 2015 and make it once again a central feature of the museum and the village economy.

    The sawmill is now back in business and provides the backdrop for a range of activities.

  • 2015 Building the new Living in Alsace in the 21st-century area

    2 groups of architects, ForMaRev and the ETC collective, spent summer 2015 working on the construction of the new Living in Alsace in the 21st-century area. Their work included setting up a manually-operated ferry on the stretch of water behind the train station and a footbridge for crossing over the headrace canal to the Rotonde, which has been refurbished as a cultural mediation centre. These new features are central parts of the new area, which will be celebrated by an annual festival the first edition of which will be prepared for in 2016 and held during the 2017 season.

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