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Renovations at Maison Jean Lescarts

Maison Jean Lescarts is a building that's very well known by Mons residents. Once fully renovated, it will house an interpretive centre about the town's history, called the Historium.

A former infirmary

A listed building located in an ideal situation, next to BAM and near the Grand-Place, between 1934 and 2004 Maison Jean Lescarts was home to the Museum of Folklore and Mons Life – a popular place for locals to take guests, and equally popular among visitors to the Ducasse de Mons festival, who could go there to discover the town's special charms (even if the weather was foul outside!), the power of its folklore and the influence of its history and traditions.

Considering the excellent location of Maison Jean Lescarts, it seemed apt to set up an interpretive centre there about the town's history – or its "Historium" – rather than keeping it as a museum of folklore.

In 1593, following a pilgrimage to Tongre-Notre-Dame, 10 year-old Marguerite Masselot was healed of a strange sickness which no other remedy had managed to relieve. After this experience, she pledged to devote her life to helping others and 15 years later fulfilled this promise by founding the Congregation of the Daughters of Notre-Dame in Mons, which would work to provide free education for girls. To house this school, the congregation bought Saint-Symphorien Hotel situated at the top of Rue de Nimy, and subsequently expanded through the purchase or donation of properties situated on the street now called Rue Neuve (where BAM is located) and through the construction of new buildings, such as an infirmary at the bottom end of their property. This building, which dates back to 1636, was the future Maison Jean Lescarts, which will house the Historium.

At the end of the 18th century, after two centuries of prosperity, the congregation's activities ceased: the main building of the convent was turned into an archive and later into a poorhouse (which operated until 1867).

 

Saved by Jean Lescarts

In 1905, the buildings situated on Rue Neuve were knocked down to make way for the establishment and construction of the Museum of Fine Arts. Thanks to the intervention of the Burgomaster, Jean Lescarts, the infirmary escaped demolition and in 1910 became the "little museum".

The archaeological circle kept its collections there from 1912. In 1931, at the instigation of Judge Paul Heupgen, who was also a local historian, writer and collector, a non-profit organisation was established under the name of Maison Jean Lescarts, the purpose of which was to "gather together, under one roof, collections of objets d'art particularly associated with Mons and documents relating particularly to Mons folklore". Various objects and documents relating above all to welfare services (Peul Heupgen was the secretary for Mons public hospitals) were kept there and, in 1934, the Museum of Mons Folklore was opened.

As the organisation's energy began to fade, the city authorities, mindful of the importance of the artefacts stored at Maison Jean Lescarts, decided in 1961 to take control of this "private" museum and connect it to other local museums.

A new presentation of the collections was unveiled on 25 March 1988, during the festivities for the Ducasse de Messines, following the completion of a major project involving counting, making inventories and restoration.

Fifteen years later, due to its location right alongside the building site where work was taking place to prepare for the new BAM, Maison Jean Lescarts closed its doors to the public. In order to make the future Historium attractive and accessible to all, the presentation of exhibits and documents will benefit from an interactive, dynamic approach.

 

Video "Une oeuvre, un musée: l'Historium" (in French)

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