The useful properties of the oils extracted from sands extraction in northern Alsace, in the present-day department of Bas-Rhin were recognised in the Middle Ages, and the oils were systematically extracted from the mid-eighteenth century until 1970. Mining began in 1745 under the direction of Louis Pierre Ancillon de la Sablonnière. The first refinery began production in 1857 and soon afterwards the first institute of oil technology opened in the area.
The museum at Merkwiller-Pechelbronn is concerned with the history of the industry. It explains the geology of the region, the ways in which prospecting was carried out, and the various means of pumping oil, including the ‘nodding donkey’ pumps which characterised the area. There are also sections on refinery processes and on the Antar company, founded at Merkwiller-Pechelbronn in 1927.