The textile manufacturing community at Cholet a small town in Maine et Loire, 66 km south-east of Nantes, was established in the seventeenth century by Edouard Colbert, brother of Louis XIV’s minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who arranged for the settlement in the area of a group of weavers. Textile manufacturing flourished until the second half of the twentieth century, and the town became celebrated for making a type of red handkerchief, the ‘mouchoir rouge de Cholet’.
In 1982 a voluntary society was formed whose first object was to save the buildings of a bleachworks, the Blanchisserie de la Rivier Sauvageau, built in 1881, which were then standing derelict. The local authority sanctioned the development of a museum that was opened in the restored buildings in 1995. The museum presents a wide-ranging panorama of the technologies used at all stages of textile manufacture, and many of the machines on display are demonstrated. The museum holds a substantial archive of documents and photographs relating to textile manufactures in the area.