Description Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne houses treasures of 19th century everyday life in France

If you visit the convent of the Bernadines in Dijon, you will be in the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne which opened to the public in 1985. You can discover treasures of 19th century everyday life.

You can find traditional French regional costumes, jewellery, furniture and even reconstructed shops that let you dip into the past. There is a toy store window, a cake shop and a hairdresser's as well.

It is up to you to find us...
Description Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne houses treasures of 19th century everyday life in France

If you visit the convent of the Bernadines in Dijon, you will be in the Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne which opened to the public in 1985. You can discover treasures of 19th century everyday life.

You can find traditional French regional costumes, jewellery, furniture and even reconstructed shops that let you dip into the past. There is a toy store window, a cake shop and a hairdresser's as well.

It is up to you to find us...

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

aerial view

Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, Dijon, France

Le Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.


Le Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne opened to the public in 1985 in the cloister of the convent of the Bernardines, the Cistercian order of Saint Bernard de Citeaux, for which construction began in 1679.

The museum, which moved into the cloister in 1982, has space on three levels.

On the ground floor, the Perrin de Puycousin gallery displays the rural and ethnographic heritage of Burgundy in the late 19th century. Furniture, household equipment and traditional costumes are displayed in showcases that explain how knowledge is passed from one generation to another or in lifelike reconstructions using waxwork figures. This late nineteenth-century approach to museums recalls the museum’s founder, Perrin de Puycousin.
Le Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne opened to the public in 1985 in the cloister of the convent of the Bernardines, the Cistercian order of Saint Bernard de Citeaux, for which construction began in 1679.

The museum, which moved into the cloister in 1982, has space on three levels.

On the ground floor, the Perrin de Puycousin gallery displays the rural and ethnographic heritage of Burgundy in the late 19th century. Furniture, household equipment and traditional costumes are displayed in showcases that explain how knowledge is passed from one generation to another or in lifelike reconstructions using waxwork figures. This late nineteenth-century approach to museums recalls the museum’s founder, Perrin de Puycousin.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The "Ages of Life" gallery draws visitors into a lively setting in which they can discover sumptuous costumes from Bresse and Mâcon, glittering traditional jewellery and a number of symbolic objects. A reconstructed kitchen from Bresse contains furniture that takes on extra significance when we remember that the wattle-and-daub construction of the region did not allow for cupboards. In addition, utensils vividly illustrate what life was like in days gone by.

The first floor is given over to daily life in Dijon at the end of the 19th century. Ten shops have been reconstructed: a drug store, hat shop, furrier, laundry, toy shop window, cake shop and hairdresser’s. All of these shops once operated in the heart of the city. With their original facades, these shops were witness to a way of life that has now disappeared.

This "memory lane", which was produced through the generosity of the people of Dijon, complements the thematic displays: earthenware from Dijon, the bicycle and agri-food industries and so on. A page of history is illustrated with glowing posters that help readers understand what life was really like during that period. Read More
The "Ages of Life" gallery draws visitors into a lively setting in which they can discover sumptuous costumes from Bresse and Mâcon, glittering traditional jewellery and a number of symbolic objects. A reconstructed kitchen from Bresse contains furniture that takes on extra significance when we remember that the wattle-and-daub construction of the region did not allow for cupboards. In addition, utensils vividly illustrate what life was like in days gone by.

The first floor is given over to daily life in Dijon at the end of the 19th century. Ten shops have been reconstructed: a drug store, hat shop, furrier, laundry, toy shop window, cake shop and hairdresser’s. All of these shops once operated in the heart of the city. With their original facades, these shops were witness to a way of life that has now disappeared.

This "memory lane", which was produced through the generosity of the people of Dijon, complements the thematic displays: earthenware from Dijon, the bicycle and agri-food industries and so on. A page of history is illustrated with glowing posters that help readers understand what life was really like during that period.

Finally, a trick with mirrors greets visitors to the Dijon hall of fame, where they can see themselves reflected among the notables of the city. To commemorate this event, visitors can go to the photographer’s, get dressed up in their favourite costume and have their picture taken.

On the second floor, a gallery is dedicated to symbols of regional identity. The space covers over 800 square metres under a single roof. On one side, a miniature train brings to life the posters published by the PLM advertising provincial tourist highlights. On the other side, a procession of "santons" in polychrome stone by sculptor Pierre Vigoureux (1884-1965) portrays Burgundians going about their daily activities.

In the centre of the space, the museum’s collections, as well as research undertaken by the Mission du Patrimoine ethnologique, can be used to illustrate themes in three banks of eight showcases. Temporary exhibits can thus benefit from the latest research.

Finally, a picture rail displays amateur and professional photographs. Perhaps the slow-paced life they depict is not so far removed from us as we think. Contemporary photographers like Janine Niepce or Rajak Ohanian have also captured this atmosphere.

Readers can browse through works on Burgundy in the reading room while an audiovisual room presents a weekly program about lost techniques, life stories and different ways of doing things. Seminars and conferences held here help to put exhibitions in perspective. Activities are organized in a children’s workshop and showcases display collections suited to children’s interests.

The Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne not only provides information about the material aspects of a society that has passed away but also on the efforts of our own society to remember it by preserving its physical traces forever.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The revival of traditional art in everyday objects

Theme

The theme of the exhibition meant selecting objects of contemporary manufacture from the museum’s collections.

Objects also had to be everyday items and examples of traditional art.
We thought about using earthenware dishes or shop signs but we finally chose wooden toys because the museum happened to have a varied collection of them.
Toys met all of the suggested criteria.

Toys are everyday objects. While they may not be utilitarian, like kitchen utensils, they are nonetheless necessary for children’s psychological development. Toys have been part of everyday life throughout history. Very often, they have owed their existence to children’s imagination or are simple makeshift articles crafted by parents from objects at hand.

Toys provide us with examples of popular art and they are always representative of their period. Their beauty resides not only in their shapes and colours but often also in their simplicity. Besides their aesthetic appeal, they are evidence of human ingenuity.
The notion of a revi Read More
The revival of traditional art in everyday objects

Theme

The theme of the exhibition meant selecting objects of contemporary manufacture from the museum’s collections.

Objects also had to be everyday items and examples of traditional art.
We thought about using earthenware dishes or shop signs but we finally chose wooden toys because the museum happened to have a varied collection of them.
Toys met all of the suggested criteria.

Toys are everyday objects. While they may not be utilitarian, like kitchen utensils, they are nonetheless necessary for children’s psychological development. Toys have been part of everyday life throughout history. Very often, they have owed their existence to children’s imagination or are simple makeshift articles crafted by parents from objects at hand.

Toys provide us with examples of popular art and they are always representative of their period. Their beauty resides not only in their shapes and colours but often also in their simplicity. Besides their aesthetic appeal, they are evidence of human ingenuity.
The notion of a revival implies that objects should still be in production which is why we have chosen to present only wooden toys that can be found today in the windows of small toy shops.

To begin with, wooden toys are attractive because of the material from which they are made. After years of plastic, wood is returning to favour as a more natural, elegant and aesthetic material for toys. Often wooden toys are simply varnished to highlight the grain and allow the wood to show through. Wood also seems to be more in keeping with today’s trend towards healthier products. Wood seems more ecological and valuable than plastic because of its organic nature as well as for its natural value and meaning.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

The museum’s wooden toys are on display primarily in the window of the Verrière toy shop, an old Dijon firm that was in operation from 1930 to 1986 and one that was well known to several generations of children.

The exhibit conveys the atmosphere of the shop well...

"Once upon a time,...

The neighbourhood children know the address well and they race down Musette street as soon as they get out of school. Wide-eyed, with their noses pressed against the glass, they carefully take stock of the brightly coloured toys: a milk truck, a postman driving a car, a clown waving in a tub, a cat chasing a mouse...and exclaiming over the new models - a red truck with nine firemen all in a row, very dapper in their blue and red uniforms and gold helmets!"

"Guy Verrière watched them from inside. When they returned home, these fair-haired children would try to persuade their mothers to buy them what they wanted. Verrière was very good with children. His acquaintance with the world of toys started in 1930 at the age of 18 when his mother opened a shop at a period when wooden toys were fashionable.

These toys were as old as t Read More
The museum’s wooden toys are on display primarily in the window of the Verrière toy shop, an old Dijon firm that was in operation from 1930 to 1986 and one that was well known to several generations of children.

The exhibit conveys the atmosphere of the shop well...

"Once upon a time,...

The neighbourhood children know the address well and they race down Musette street as soon as they get out of school. Wide-eyed, with their noses pressed against the glass, they carefully take stock of the brightly coloured toys: a milk truck, a postman driving a car, a clown waving in a tub, a cat chasing a mouse...and exclaiming over the new models - a red truck with nine firemen all in a row, very dapper in their blue and red uniforms and gold helmets!"

"Guy Verrière watched them from inside. When they returned home, these fair-haired children would try to persuade their mothers to buy them what they wanted. Verrière was very good with children. His acquaintance with the world of toys started in 1930 at the age of 18 when his mother opened a shop at a period when wooden toys were fashionable.

These toys were as old as time and were marvellous illustrations of how clever and ingenious people could be. A shepherd watching his flock in a shady grove could just as well have carved these modest objects with his knife. Quite simply carved from natural living material, in sturdy shapes and painted in brilliant colours, wooden toys have been a favourite medium for childish imaginings. And as Baudelaire points out, their humbleness and sturdiness have been the guarantee of their success." (Dijon Clair-obscur, Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, Perrin de Puycousin, 1994).

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

In the past, toys were sold chiefly in places of pilgrimage or shrines and at major fairs.

Until the 19th century, peddlers travelled from village to village to sell toys to parents. In cities, tradesmen strolled in the streets and hawked their wares to passers-by and residents alike.

Then in the 19th century, toys began to be marketed and could be found at grocers, haberdashers and other shops.

Toy sales expanded with the opening of the large Paris department stores. The publication of Christmas catalogues also helped reach a broader public.
Branches sold toys in the provinces.
In the past, toys were sold chiefly in places of pilgrimage or shrines and at major fairs.

Until the 19th century, peddlers travelled from village to village to sell toys to parents. In cities, tradesmen strolled in the streets and hawked their wares to passers-by and residents alike.

Then in the 19th century, toys began to be marketed and could be found at grocers, haberdashers and other shops.

Toy sales expanded with the opening of the large Paris department stores. The publication of Christmas catalogues also helped reach a broader public.
Branches sold toys in the provinces.

© 1997, CHIN-Canadian Heritage Information Network. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Describe Musée de la Vie Bourguignonne, Dijon, France and its Toy Collection;
  • Describe the social role of toys in French culture;
  • Describe the history of toys in French culture.

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