The museum's history

The Musée d’Histoire de la Vie Quotidienne (History Museum of Daily Life) is a museum of society showing and describing the life of the inhabitants of Petit-Caux and more generally of the French people from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. It aims at studing the tangible and intangible heritage of the French region Upper-Normandy, its traditions, its habits and its religious practices but also at giving all kinds of audiences an access to sociological, scientific, technical and industrial knowledge related to daily life.



The Association du Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires du Talou (Association of the Museum of Arts and popular Traditions of the Talou) initiated this project

 Logo de l'association du Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires du Talou

The Association of the Museum of Arts and popular Traditions of the Talou located in Upper-Normandy gathers remains of the regional trading, traditional and industrial past and informs us about multiple and unexpected professions. The Association of the Museum of Arts and popular Traditions of the Talou has given about a thousand of the total 20,000 pieces of its collection to the MHVQ and 8,000 additional pieces are currently on permanent loan. The President of the Association David Raillot and his team started constituting this regional conservation authority twenty-five years ago. Engaged in a never-ending quest, this collector became interested first in milk jugs and then in breeding in general and finally in all the occupations in Normandy. The 60 members of the Association visit multiple temporary exhibitions and attend conferences in school and in multimedia libraries to find objects that were part of Normandy’s daily life between 1890 and 1999. Then, they list them and renovate them. As the Association didn’t have a permanent place to show all these objects, it made cities of the Seine-Maritime area aware of its situation in order to put together a museum.

The city of Saint Martin en Campagne and the Maison Mercier, an old building from the Middle Ages, proposed a museum and scientific project offering the best exhibition and preservation conditions for the objects of the collection. To David Raillot, “what’s important is going back to the roots of our territorial identity by preserving objects representative of a period”. From impressive printing machines from the late 19th century to Vendeuvre famous orange tractors which used to be manufactured in Normandy and which rode our country lanes; from work clothing to party clothes from the 1920s to the 1970s; from the typewriters of the 1890s to Amstrad computers in the 1980s; from coopers to wheelwrights; from cobblers to saddlers – the Association carries out a memory and inventory work based on the knowledge and the transmission of the know-how of the bygone days to illustrate lifetimes of hard work. The Association’s meticulous work is built upon pictures, lithographies, documentaries and cultural exchanges.


In the beginning of the Musée d’Histoire de la Vie Quotidienne, there was the refurbishment of the Maison Mercier…


The Maison Mercier is a small manor in Normandy made of wood frames. It accounts for the regional architecture as well as for the history of Saint Martin en Campagne. The whole construction project of the Museum is part of a remembrance process that the Maison Mercier illustrates in the best possible way. The original objective of Saint Martin en Campagne was to safeguard this building as the last witness of Saint Martin en Campagne’s looks back in the Middle Ages. The Maison Mercier was a farm in the 16th century and a lot of its original dispositions still remain today. It has therefore been decided to carry out a comprehensive archeological survey before starting the refurbishment. Thanks to this survey, many hints could be gathered that made it possible to rebuild the house the way it was back in the Middle Ages. The restoration and rehabilitation works started in December 2008 and finished in late October 2010.This “documentary” building was first chosen as the perfect place to show the collection of the budding Museum.

 Façade avant de la Maison Mercier, avant les travaux, 2007   Façade avant de la Maison Mercier, après travaux, 2011.   Façade arrière de la Maison Mercier, avant travaux, 2007.   Façade arrière de la Maison Mercier, aprèst travaux, 2011.


And in the end, there also was a modern extension to it


Elévations du projet de musée, par le cabinet A4 architectes, 2010.Nowadays in France, building new projects near a historical building raises a crucial issue: how to associate nicely two architectural styles from two different periods? This question was at the core of the conception of the Museum’s new constructions. The architectural choices are made according to the restoration of the Maison Mercier and its typical wood framing. This project was both ambitious and respectful towards the urban context in which it was carried out: the town’s heart. The objectives were to preserve as much as possible the park located there prior to the works and to maintain the pedestrian and visual links to the main municipal buildings: the city-hall, the church and the community hall. Considering these constraints and the large surface of the Museum, the architects quickly came up with the brilliant idea to build the exhibition hall of the Museum beneath the surface as it would allow them to reconstitute the garden on the surface and keep the collections away from daylight while exhibiting them, which would allow for a better preservation.


The construction is divided into three parts: the information desk, the underground exhibition gallery and the connecting stairs against the gable end of the Maison Mercier. Thanks to these stairs, the Maison Mercier is integrated into the scenographic circuit of the whole Museum. The building of the “information desk” was deliberately disconnected from the Maison Mercier in order to maintain a comprehensive visual perception of the construction and to avoid the Maison Mercier to be hidden by the building of the information desk. Stairs were necessary to access the two levels of the manor. The staircase located against the gable end of the building is the only architectural graft onto the old construction. The new constructions have noticeable contemporary aesthetics, a simple volumetric space and clean lines. In contrast, this sobriety is asserted in order to enhance the architectural wealth of the Maison Mercier, especially its restored wood framing with winding lines. Glass and metal were chosen for the new façades according to the objective which was to have a new construction that would differentiate itself from the old building and not incite the visitors to compare the new to the old. The link between the old and the new architectural styles was made through a special work on the common rhythm of the two façades. The metal cladding of the new façades has a series of openings in a strong vertical rhythm as well as vertical and randomly oriented brise-soleils which enhance the brightness of the metal with aged look. This play of full and void gives a contemporary retranscription of the rhythm of the old wood framing technique.

Perspective réaliste du début du parcours de visite, par l'Atelier Akiko, 2013.In the new part of the construction, after the reception building, the visitors are invited to walk down to the Museum’s underground hall which they would never have thought existed just a few seconds before. The collections are displayed thematically on a blue case binding the pedestals and the glass cases. The objects that used to be part of the regional daily life are thus taken out of their context and can reveal better their absolute essence brightened by the men and women who used to use them. They gain in mystery and greatness to the point they might even be considered as pieces of a treasure. This second perception of the objects is supported by large images and short movies from the Normandy’s people’s personal archives that are shown on interactive screens; this second perception is then reoriented by the contextualised use of each object provided by the archives. Old postcards showing men and women of yesteryear are pinned on a wall. These witnesses of Normandy’s history pose in their daily activities – sometimes to their pride – and catch the visitors’ attention. Depending on the cultural program, you can also visit an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The choice of the collection is built upon three possible points of view: ethnological, historical or scientific and technical. The collection is shown in four main thematic categories: Agriculture (Agriculture), Artisanat et Industrie (Arts and Craft), Commerces et Services (Business and services), Vie Sociale et Culturelle (Social and Cultural life).



When not exhibited, the collections are kept in a storehouse

 Façade du bâtiment des réserves, 2015.

Even prior to the construction of the Museum, its storehouse was built about 1 km away. The climate of the storerooms is permanently and automatically regulated which enables the good preservation of the over 7,600 non-exhibited objects.

The storehouse is also fitted with an anaerobic chamber that disinfects the collections. Very few museums own this type of equipment that destroys harmful organisms. The anaerobic chamber of the MHVQ de Saint Martin en Campagne is at the disposal of all the institutions, professionals and individuals wishing to have their collections processed.