In Lyon, an exhibition dedicated to the city’s industrial past

Lyon, capital of Gaul and Gones. Certainly, but we tend to forget that the city mainly made a name for itself thanks to its industrial past. A working-class adventure highlighted by the Lyon History Museum (MHL) – which shares the walls of the Gadagne Museum with the Museum of Puppetry Arts (MAM) – through its new permanent collection, entitled What are you doing ? Industrial and working class Lyon“.”It’s about of the third part of the museum’s new permanent route”, accurate Xavier de la Selle, director of the Gadagne museum. And to add. “Lyon’s industrial past has contributed greatly to the development of the city’s landscape. Its development has left a lasting mark on the city and its identity to this day. We had to pay tribute to him“.

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What are you doing ? Industrial and working-class Lyon: an interactive journey

It all started during the Renaissance, the era of fairs (1450-1560), as told in the first room of the exhibition. Lyon became, under the supervision of Italian merchant-bankers, the French center for spices and silks from the East. Prosperity is revealed by a superb painting by Pierre Bonirote, Origin of the manufacture of silk fabrics in Lyon in 1536 (1842), and a wonderful “space to smell” where visitors are invited to immerse themselves in the olfactory atmosphere of these markets of the past. “From the middle of the 15th century, the city became a manufacturer by developing printing and silk“, explained Xavier de la Selle.

A large part of the exhibition – two rooms out of six – is mainly devoted to this textile industry, from the 17th to the 19th century. Called the Grande Fabrique, it was controlled by the Minister of Finance, Colbert, in 1667. A “golden age” of Lyon’s silk industry. Very interactive, the route then invites the visitor to put himself in the shoes of a silk weaver – a canut – by introducing him to all the techniques of the textile trades. The centerpiece of the collection, an exquisite fabric almost 3 meters long, called “à la grande tire”, which appeared in Lyon around 1605, then appeared before our astonished eyes. A rare example of trade preserved and visible in France. Reunited thanks to an association of Lyon, Living silk, the device, which was imported from Italy at the beginning of the 17th century, now shows untied strings to allow the public to better understand its complex weaving system. The device, not working, is in “ready to weave” mode. “We owe to this type of craft the finest silk of the 18th century and of the First Empire.“, says Claire Deglise, head of exhibitions at the Gadagne museum.These looms, of enormous size, changed the dimensions of the workshops in the hill district of Croix-Rousse, where most of the canuts lived.“, said Claire Deglise.

Jacquard mechanics with Vincenzi division (1906) P. Aubert

Fabric library and playful scenography

Another device that should not be missed, the second loom, called “Jacquard”, which promoted technical progress thanks to a system of punched cards that guide the weaving needles. A binary system – ancestor of computing – that allowed an evolution of fabrics, visible in a “tissue library” where the visitor can touch different patterned samples (canvas, satin, etc.). The playful scenography is the great success of this permanent exhibition that also has the merit of not hiding the dark side of this industrial epic: the revolts of the canuts, between 1831 and 1848, who denounced the insufficient that salary. Beyond observation, we learn the causes of these uprisings: the cleavage between 6,000 silk workers (traders) and 30,000 workshop managers and workers (canuts). The former, who bought the raw material, always passed on downward fluctuations in the market to pay the latter as little as possible. We can only smile -yellow- when reading this part Shuttle shots published in the workers’ newspaper, The Echo of the Factory (1832). A worker shouted:A worker is congratulated because he was not injured during three days of work. Parbleu, the merchants have made us so thin that they cannot adjust us!“. The reality of a condition of the working class that would continue to grow from the end of the 19th century, when Lyon’s manufacturing production was now concentrated in large factories that rationalized work by punctuating the body and actions.

What are you doing ? Industrial and working-class Lyon, at the Lyon History Museum. Museum of Gadagne

Permanent exhibition: What do you do? Industrial and working-class Lyon, at the Lyon History Museum (Gadagne Museum), in Lyon.

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