Musée de la Rubanerie Cominoise
More than 800 years ago, a first textile industry took place in Comines, on the both sides of the Lys river that, since 1713, divides the town between France and the actual Kingdom of Belgium. The high quality of the goods (based on the English wool) and of the accurate technical knowledge of the weavers offered to Comines a true international recognition. Its products were sold all over Europe but also around the Mediterranean Sea and in Asia. During the late 14th century, in 1391, because of protectionist laws decided by the king of France Charles VI, based on claims from the Flemish weavers from Ypres, no more large cloths should be made in Comines! The goal was to ruin Comines’ weaving industry. But the king didn’t know that shorter pieces of goods were also woven there since several decades. Our weavers became thus at that time ribbon makers.
Moreover, the French authorities decided to valorize a new fiber, developed and grown in France : the flax. A few weavers didn’t accept those conditions and went to England in order to continue their job with quality products, the others stayed in Comines and wove linen ribbons.
After the religious conflicts (during the XVIth century), the wars between France and its neighbours, the French Revolution and other historical facts, Comines was split into two towns in 1713. It was the beginning of an industrial process that led patiently the two towns to a real leadership in the making of ribbons. Around 1900, Comines wove 80% of the world’s ribbon production! But the first World War came on and the town, a military strategic place occupied by the Germans, was totally destroyed in 1918.
But a few years later, new generations of weavers rebuilt factories, created new looms and gave to Comines’ textile industry a new solid start. Nowadays, despite of the relocations and of the world economical crisis, there are still successful ribbon industries in Comines that export their goods all over the world.
Opened in 1985 and officially recognized as museum institution by the Ministery of Culture of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation of Belgium since 2008, Comines’ Ribbon Industry Museum is a professionalized associative structure that preserves, restores, studies and presents the ribbon patrimony in and around the city of Comines. In that way the transmission of the knowledge, gestures and techniques, the classification and the study of archives like the collecting of documents and of oral remembrances through inquiries, linked to local ribbon industries, are a solid base for a mediation dedicated to all the publics. The goal is to give the opportunity to each people to discover and/or to understand all the “treasures” of this remarkable patrimony.
Thematic publications (booklets, scientific studies about the historical, ethnological, technical aspects of the ribbon industry as well as discoveries of unexpected pieces or parts of its patrimony) and temporary exhibitions are married with living tours inside the museum through a fine selection of weaving engines that are still working!