Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant

Arts and traditions of labelled companies have their own museums


While the products of some labelled companies are already displayed in national museums and salerooms around the world, the ateliers and workshops that created them sometimes have their own museums too. The term ‘museum’ is not misused here. These firms with rare, sometimes ancestral, skills, recognised for their excellence, are run by men and women who are passionate about their trades and enjoy sharing their history and skills with the public.


  • A bit of background


In 2010, a quarter of EPV-labelled companies, or around 200 firms, are over 100 years old. Half (around 400) open their ateliers to the public, either for open days or all year round. Thirty are housed in listed buildings: Deyrolle, Boucheron, Chanel, Potel et Chabot and Ateliers Jean Perzel in Paris; Royal Limoges; Horlogerie Zimmermann in Saint-Etienne; Lutherie Jean-Frédéric Schmitt in Lyon; Chantier Naval Pasqui in Villefranche-sur-Mer; to name a few.

Finally, nearly twenty have their own museums: among them, Favard & Associés (Musée des Arts Forains – fairground arts), Christallerie Saint-Louis in Saint-Louis-Lès-Bitche (crystalware), the Dior Museum in Granville, Coutellerie de Laguiole (cutlery), the Baccarat Museum (Paris and Baccarat), Musée de la Faïencerie de Gien (earthenware), Musée de la Ganterie (gloves) in Millau, Musée des Santons Marcel Carbonel (Nativity figurines) in Marseilles, and Musée de la Savonnerie Marius Fabre (soapmaking).




  • Museum or showroom?


The term ‘museum’ is not misused by labelled companies. These firms with rare, sometimes ancestral, skills, recognised for their excellence, are run by men and women who are passionate about their trades and enjoy sharing their history and skills with the public. Their museums, some private, are more than just marketing tools to target consumers who are lovers of authenticity and rarity. They are centres for the preservation of their family history and the tangible heritage handed down by their founders.


  • The Marseilles Soap Museum in Salon-de-Provence


The Savonnerie Marius Fabre in Salon-de-Provence is the perfect example of a private museum set up by a family business passionate about its trade and proud of its heritage. The museum opened in 2001, but the soap factory itself celebrated its 110th birthday this year. The museum traces the history of Marseilles soap through the history of the company, from 1900 to the present day. Housed in what was the soap-drying room, it exhibits tools, stamps, engraved boxwood dies, the first soap moulds, antique packaging, etc. The museum received 8 000 visitors last year and 1 500 people during the European Heritage Days (with a tour of the present-day workshops thrown in).




Listed in the standard tourist guidebooks, the factory and its museum also enjoy an idyllic setting, not far from Salon-de-Provence station. In fact, it was the arrival of the railway to Salon-de-Provence in 1873 that determined the building of the first soap factory, Savonnerie Couderc, on the site, because the proximity to the station meant it could have its own branch line. Marius Fabre, whose own factory was slightly further away, on Rue du 4 Septembre, set up shop here in 1927, and since then the business has remained in the family (four generations). Over the years the factory has undergone the necessary changes, but it has nevertheless preserved its soul and characteristic 19th-century industrial architecture.




The future of the company is today in the hands of Marius’s two granddaughters, Marie and Julie Bousquet-Fabre. 20% of its turnover comes from overseas, in particular Asia, where the properties of Marseilles soap are highly prized, but also the United States and Western Europe.





The Savonnerie Marius Fabre will be at the home-fashion show MAISON&OBJET, from 3 to 7 September, in Paris-Nord Villepinte. As every year, its factory will be open to the public for the European Heritage Days, on 18 and 19 September. In the meantime, a visit to its museum in Salon-de-Provence is a must!


Practical information:

Savonnerie Marius Fabre

148, Avenue Paul Bourret

13651 Salon-de-Provence

Tel.: +33 (0)4 90 53 24 77

Open Monday to Friday, 8.30 am to 12 noon and 1.30 pm to 5 pm.


21 July 2010