Seventeenth-century bobbin lacee century to the mechanical lace of the beginning of the XXe century, the Retournac Lace Manufactures Museum retraces the history of Velay lace through an impressive collection of 450.000 pieces and the touching testimony of the lacemakers of the time.

To talk about Retournac Lace Factory Museum, you have to go back decades. Until 1903 exactly. Date on which the brother and sister, Claire and Auguste Experton, founded their first handmade bobbin lace factory. And where the Retournac museum stands out is that it was born in the very building of this first factory, thus preserving all the industrial heritage of this first company, then of the second, founded by Claire Experton, then separated from his brother, in 1932.

Retournac lace factories in Haute-Loire, Auvergne

A municipal museum that houses an exceptional local heritage

In 1994, the municipality of Retournac bought the company Auguste Experton & son, thus saving the entire company and its contents. An already fine collection enriched in 1998 by the purchase of the 2e Retournac lace company, Claire Experton & Cie, after its closure in 1997. This is how the Museum of Lace Manufactures was born, with 2 years later, already its first exhibition…

But since 1998, the museum has come a long way. After major works and labeling "French Museum", the Retournac Lace Manufactures Museum reopened its doors in 2007, offering the opportunity to discover a unique local know-how and to follow the evolution of this Returns production through the ages...

Magali Delorme, lacemaker and mediator of the museum and Fanny Roilette at the Lace Museum of Retournac in Haute-Loire
Magali Delorme, lacemaker and museum mediator and Fanny Roilette

I have walked the aisles of this museum like no other for you

Upon entry, the Retournac Lace Factory Museum is one of a kind. The large, modern and bright hall was built in 2006, as was the temporary exhibition hall. At reception, a lacemaker, Magali Delorme, juggles her bobbins… Enough to put us in the bath of the visit. The path towards which it then guides us is divided into 6 sections :

The European history of lace at the Museum of Retournac in Haute-Loire, Auvergne


The first section puts us in the historical context, and takes us through “the European history of lace” since their appearance in the sixteenthe century. Some pieces, such as the large needle lace flounce in "Gros point de Venise" from the XNUMXthe century which alone occupies an entire window, make the municipal museum of Retournac an essential center in the field of textile museums in Europe. Several meters long and rich in its design, it is one of the most remarkable preserved pieces of lace from this period in the world.


The second section plunges visitors into the daily life of XX lacemakerse century, for whom life has not always been easy. In the window, a multitude of quotes, written and audio testimonies, photos, pieces of life... So many words collected from the former workers during oral inquiries conducted from 1996 to 2001 after the Retournac factories were closed. “The last factory closed its doors in 1997, it's not that old! underlines the mediator, Magali Delorme.

daily life of XNUMXth century lacemakers at the Museum of Retournac in Haute-Loire, Auvergne
Large workshop at the museum of lace factories in Retournac in Haute-Loire


We then take a magnificent period staircase, a vestige of the original factory of the brother and sister Experton, to enter "The Great Workshop". There, stands the reconstruction of a period workshop, as it once existed in the old factory. As for the furniture? This is the one that was found on the spot after the purchase of the building by the municipality: an assembly bench from the Experton Frère & Sœur factory which has more than 12 sewing machines from 1920, a wooden stepladder, tables and signs… It's a whole part of local history that opens up to us.


In most cases, the business manager also exercised the function of lace designer. A work presented in the 4e section of the museum: " Cartoonist ", which highlights the creative work and sources of inspiration of these men. Because if the lacemakers are only women, the designers are very often men...

But what was being done at the time at the Experton factory?

Anything but lace. The lacemakers often worked from home. The factory was occupied by the designers. Preparing the boxes and tracings that were going to be offered to the lacemakers. Once made, the lace pieces returned to the factory to be shaped in the workshop, then marketed all over the world. “And that, the lacemakers of the time were far from suspecting it. They would never have imagined that their work would thus cross borders. »

Mechanical looms at the Retournac lace factory museum in Haute-Loire, Auvergne


On the ground floor, space for the section of “Mechanical Trades”. These nearly century-old circular machines are kept in their original location in the manufactory's former mechanical lace workshop. And surprised! They are still in working order! THE museum mediators and lacemakers, Magali Delorme and Sandrine Gilbert, are also happy to show how they work on each guided tour.


Finally, last section of the museum: "The Productions". What to discover real creations of bobbin lace of the XIXe and XXe centuries: underwear, dresses, camisoles, ruffles, headpieces, shawls, lampshades, curtains and other doilies...

Productions at the Retournac lace factory museum in Haute-Loire, Auvergne

Animations, demonstrations, lace workshops and temporary exhibitions

In parallel with his permanent career for which Magali Delorme and Sandrine Gibert offer visits guided every Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in summer (or throughout the year by reservation for groups), the museum of Retournac also wants to be a kind of third place, a place of life, open to visitors and inhabitants. Strong in its desire to transmit, the Museum of lace factories regularly organizes creative workshops andInitiation with lace on inscription, as well as temporary exhibitions who often open up to worlds other than that of lace.

Temporary lace exhibitions at the Retournac museum in Haute-Loire, Auvergne

This year, from Friday 28 April to Sunday 1er October, discover the exhibition of Violaine Sausset "Dreamy ink: when lace becomes sculpture" and his creations 3d pen all in lightness, aerial, dreamlike... Works that mix poetry and committed themes. Involved in many cultural initiatives promoting social inclusion, Violaine Sausset indeed creates sculptures with strong messages.

Open. Closes at 18:00 p.m.
14 station avenue
43130 Returnnac
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Information, prices and registration for the workshops offered by the museum: or by email at [email protected]

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