The bale breaker, the beater and the rack all sound like instruments belonging to a torture chamber, but in reality they are part of the machines in an old mechanical cotton mill. The Museum of Industry in Ghent dedicates a whole storey to textile manufacture because cotton was the driving force behind the industrial development of the city. Not for nothing is the museum located in an old textile factory that offers the ideal framework for a splendid exhibition on the history of industrial society from 1750 to the present day. A tour of the museum introduces visitors to themes like child labour, the influence of industrialisation on social relationships, an inventory of historic businesses like a printing works, and hundreds of different types of machines all of which are still in working order. All in all visitors are guaranteed an exciting rendezvous with our industrial past. Families and schools are especially well catered for with educational display cases and hands-on museum games with which they can test their skills. The top storey of the museum can be comfortably reached by a lift. From here there is a spectacular view over the old city centre in Ghent.
It sounds logical that a ball of cotton in the damp atmosphere of Calcutta weighs more than a similarly sized ball in the dry climate of Cairo. But scarcely anyone is fully aware of the fact that these seemingly simple truths can dictate the development of whole industries. This is where the Museum comes into play. Its high-class permanent and temporary exhibitions merge all the individual details and stories into a single entity. The main role in the story is played by the city of Ghent which was the undisputed centre of the Belgian textile industry until the First World War. What this meant in human terms is shown by the replica of a salon belonging to a rich merchant and, at the other end of the scale, by a small worker’s dwelling in one of the many poverty stricken slum areas. This is the world in which Pierre De Geyter was born, the man who later wrote the music to “The Internationale” in Lille. The museum pays tribute to the composer in the form of a bronze statue that dominates its so-called colour garden containing around 40 plants that were once used for making dies for the textiles. This is the way connections are made.
Since 1990 the museum has been located in the former Desmet-Guéquier spinning mill that was built in 1905. It is the expression of an age in which Gent was generally regarded as the “Manchester of the continent”. The exhibits, documents and machines in the museum cover the period from 1750 to the present day and illustrate the history of the industrial society in which we live today. One of the most outstanding exhibits is a Spinning Jenny, which the Ghent manufacturer Lieven Bauwens smuggled out of England around 1800 in order to trigger off the first stage of industrial revolution in Flanders. So-called intelligent textiles made of synthetic materials highlight the present-day textile industry in Flanders. The main building of the museum consists of five stories which house the different collections. The museum café a shop and a multifunctional auditorium are housed in an adjacent building that was opened in 1994.
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Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday, bank holiday 10am-6pm