White mother-of-pearl from Australia, grey mother-of-pearl from Tahiti, green turban shell from Singapore, abalone from the coasts of California and Mexico and top shells from New Caledonia and Indonesia - the Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie at Méru is an exotic feast for the eyes !
From the 17th century onwards, to make up for the lack of agricultural work in winter, local countryfolk began making objects from mother-of-pearl, ivory, ebony, tortoiseshell and bone. The activity developed so well that it became a veritable industry at the beginning of the 20th century. Seashells wrapped in hessian arrived at the port of Le Havre and were sent by train to Méru where thousands of tiny 4-holed buttons, dominoes and fans were created by some 10,000 workers, button makers and mother-of-pearl craftsmen.
The inhabitants of Méru have kept their attachment to what was once the leading economic activity in the region. Nostalgia for the not so distant past, strong memories of the craft, the mark it left on each family gave a handful of enthusiasts the idea to preserve the collective souvenir in a place steeped in its history. The Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie traces the history and perpetuates this unique craft today.
Le Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie is housed in a superb, 19th century brick building and former button factory which has been totally renovated and listed as a historic monument.
Visit the museum to see the different stages in the manufacture of dominoes and buttons, as well as many collector’s items and examples of raw materials. An impressive steam generator provides energy for all the machines. All of the workshops are still operational and demonstrations take place during 2-hour guided tours which start at 15.00, 16.00 and 17.00.
The tea room overlooking the landscaped garden behind the museum is perfect for a delicious, relaxing break.