Daviaud – l’écomusée du marais vendéen
Daviaud – l’Écomusée du Marais vendéen
The Marais Vendéen Ecomuseum (46.875306, -2.101096) is situated in the commune of Barre-de-Monts, in the municipality of Vendée (France). It is managed by the Communauté de communes Océan-Marais de Monts, which includes five municipalities (Saint-Jean-de-Monts Notre-Dame-de-Monts, La Barre-de-Monts, Soullans, Le Perrier). Its field of action covers part of the Marais Breton located in Vendée.
Le Marais breton:
The Marais Breton is a wetland (polders and wet meadows crossed by ditches and canals) which spans 45,000 ha (111,197 acres).
Originally, this area was part of an ancient bay covered by the ocean (Bay of Brittany). During the middle-ages the population built dykes and canals to convert it into salt works. From the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, the Marais Breton was one of the largest salt producers in France. This salt was mainly exported to the Nordic countries.
This production area has been progressively abandoned in favour of the salt works of the south. Agriculture has become more important than salt production as an activity, which resulted in a conversion of hydraulic management (removal of salt water into the sea, gradually replacing it with rainwater). The abandoned salt pans are still visible on the landscape, however many were converted into fishing tanks.
In the last fifteen years the activity of salt production has undergone a rebirth, particularly in the communes of Bourgneuf-en-Retz, Bouin and Beauvoir-sur-Mer. In Barre-de-Monts, the Daviaud salt works is the only productive one, with around fifteen active salt-makers.
The Marais Vendéen Ecomuseum is dedicated to the conservation, study and appreciation of heritage linked to its region and acts primarily in two areas:
The ecomuseum is an open space, in which 37 acres can be visited. In these 37 acres one can find buildings which are representative of local architecture: farms, bourrines (traditional houses of the Marais Breton) salorge (traditional salt warehouses) ... These buildings have been preserved in situ or removed and remounted on the site, in an attempt to preserve this architectural heritage. Exhibitions, reconstructions of interiors, audio-visual projections, which allow the visitor to understand the history and evolution of lifestyles on the salt works, are presented in them.
Since 1998, the ecomuseum has developed a research program on the flora and fauna of the Marais Vendéen. There is an ongoing partnership with university research laboratories. The ecomuseum is a prime location to study the fauna and flora, as it is situated in the centre of 185 acres of Espaces Naturels Sensibles (a measure for the protection of the environment) which manages it. The research undertaken so far has allowed for the implementation of a permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, specific functions and events involving nature.
The Ecomusee du Marais Vendéen has the "Musée de France" certification. This certification, granted by the French government recognizes the national interest of the collections and the actions taken by the ecomuseum as benefitting this heritage. The Eco-museum has a collection of nearly 2500 ethnographic objects. In addition to objects, the ecomuseum restores or conserves buildings and specific activities of the region like le marais salant du Daviaud.
Apart from visiting the site (consisting of about ten buildings) the ecomuseum puts on temporary exhibitions on the history, lifestyles and economic activities involving salt every year (in 2009, an exhibition was devoted to the activity of salt-making in the Marais Vendéen, and a film was produced on the same subject). Some activities for visitors were also devised, especially for the school-going public.
The Ecomusée de Marais Salant:
Close to the Ferme de Daviaud (the main building of the ecomuseum) an old salt works was reactivated. This salt works, connected to the Ferme de Daviaud, was working until 1917 and was again put into operation by the ecomuseum in 1987, with the aim of preserving in situ the expertise of the salt-makers of the Marais Vendéen. This artisanal salt works has 10 pans (collection area). It produces ten tons of course salt and a ton of fleur de sel each summer. The salt works is owned by the site, but is managed through an agreement with the ecomuseum by an independent salt worker.