The Collections of the Maison de la Métallurgie et de l'Industrie de Liège

The collections of the Maison de la Métallurgie et de l'Industrie de Liège (MMIL) bear witness to technological change from the proto-industrial period to the present day. This rich and varied heritage highlights the relationships between technology, society and the environment: history of techniques (machines, tools, scale models, documents relating to inventors, etc.), history of companies (archives, manufactured products, iconographic documents, documents relating to managers and workers, etc.), social history (objects and documents relating to working conditions, equipment, safety and hygiene, leisure activities) and natural history (minerals, samples, archival and iconographic documents).

Some artifacts are part of the real estate heritage, such as the Gonrieux blast furnace, the Matton rolling mill, the hammers (makas) and machines installed in the forge or the steam engines of Ambresin and Cail-Halot.

The items in the collection cover various themes, the main ones being metallurgy (iron and steel since the 17th century and non-ferrous metals), mechanics and energy (water power and water supply, steam engines, internal combustion engines, electricity), and metal construction (frameworks, bridges, civil engineering). But there are also numerous archives linked to the history of companies (archives and iconographic documents relating to Espérance-Longdoz, Ougrée-Marihaye, Cockerill, Vieille-Montagne, Nouvelle-Montagne, Pieux Franki, etc.).

At present, the MMIL has a project to save one of the wagons that transported molten iron from the blast furnaces of Ougrée and Seraing to the steelworks of Chertal. This molten steel transporter wagon will be exhibited - and valorised - on the esplanade in front of the museum, a few steps from the design offices of the metallurgical company Espérance-Longdoz where it was designed.

Exceptional Pieces

The museum has several remarkable pieces: Herman Hollerith's tabulator (1889), on loan since 2016 to the NAM-IP museum in Namur; Zénobe Gramme's prototype of the tetra-polar dynamo (1871); Clément Leruitte's model of a steam engine (1857)

In 2012, two albums of photographs of workers and employees (1871) of the Vieille-Montagne (known as "de Saint-Paul de Sinçay") (1868) received a classification order.

In addition, in 2020, three models of respirators and a breathing bag, designed by Professor Théodore Schwann (1879), were recognised as heritage treasures of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. These objects, which entered the collections of the MMIL in 1982, will be kept in the museum of Blegny-Mine.

Collections Linked to the University

The collection of machines, tools, objects, iconographic documents and archives assembled at the MMIL is available to the University community and is of interest to a very large number of disciplines: applied sciences, geography, regional planning, geology, etc. Visits are organised regularly for ULiège students, particularly pyrometallurgists.

The inventory of the collections shows many links with the University and its history, and more particularly with the Faculty of Applied Sciences. This is the case with objects from the former ULiège Mechanics Museum or from its Montefiore Institute.

Three fine examples bear witness to this: the model of a Watt-type steam engine, offered by the Cockerill company to the thermodynamics professor Victor Dwels Hauvers-Dery, the display case of samples of electric cables (1905) manufactured by the Charleroi electrical construction workshops (ACEC), offered to the Montefiore Institute at the beginning of the 20th century, and the model of a cycloidal gear made by Gustav Voigt (Berlin, beginning of 20th century). In addition, the MMIL has recovered a collection of Cockerill glass plates from the former ULiège Centre for the History of Science and Technology.

A Reflection on Current Social Issues

In an urban area as marked by industrial history as the Liège region, it is essential for a museum to preserve and promote the heritage that it bears witness to.

But the visit, the activities and the workshops at the MMIL also allow us to extend the historical perspective towards a reflection and a dialogue on the diverse social issues that contemporary industry is facing (environmental, technological, societal, economic, etc.). For example, a specimen of Moresnet's calamine can lead to an analysis of the internal elements of a mobile phone and thus to an awareness of the need to use the planet's resources sparingly.

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