I TRAVELLED Through time in the Museum of Walloon life in Liège
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Slow travel with the family
Sometimes, it is good to freeze time, stand still, and look back…Either to better appreciate the moment, understand an area or, to get a better grasp of the long road that still lies ahead. The Museum of Walloon life is located bang in the middle of Liège’s historic centre, and enables you to travel back in time, more specifically from the 19th century till the present day. In the Museum you will discover what makes Wallonia tick, its history, customs and dialects. An instructive visit, combining tradition and modernity.
3 minutes of READING
Follow the narrator’s voice…
Once upon a time there was a group of children, their eyes open wide and totally mesmerized by the dulcet tones of a narrator. Enveloped by a reassuring semidarkness, they listen closely as he tells the tale of two young schoolchildren. Even though many elements of the tale are familiar, others are very different from present-day school life. The wooden desks, the blades that were attached to their clogs to turn them into ice skates, these historical details fascinate the young audience. Without even realizing it, the children have been transported to the 19th century and are learning the habits of the young Walloons of the time. I enjoy watching the children’s faces; in the blink of an eye, they go from laughter to surprise!
When the tale comes to an end, the narrator still has a few surprises up his sleeve…The children get to enjoy an unusual activity; they are to put themselves in the characters’ shoes and write as the children of yesteryear would: with feathers dipped in ink! It’s a first for our son and he immediately grabs the ink well and blotting paper. The other children are as game as he is and soon they are concentrated on their task, painstakingly writing the letters by hand.
This is just one of the many storytelling sessions the Museum for Walloon Life organises specifically for children. The sessions are divided into two separate parts, during the first part the children are told a story, during the second, they visit the museum.
The search for a schoolchild’s lost treasure
Diving into a different era
Here, the narrator becomes our guide and takes us to visit the museum exhibits. We take our time admiring the museum's true-to-life recreation of an old-fashioned schoolroom. The children are unable to resist the temptation, and start opening the desks, looking for a schoolchild’s lost treasure. The abacus causes quite a stir. But way the school masters and mistresses used to rule with an iron hand is not to everyone’s liking... In the Toy Section, it is reassuring to find that some games, like marbles, tops and hopscotch are timeless. Our little scamp would have loved to open the display case, just to check if the toys were still in working order.
As we visit the other floors, many different curious objects catch his eye, curiosities he is itching to try out. We decide to hang around in the 19th century for a little while longer and learn more about the popular beliefs of the time. One of them is a rather surprising nail tree thought to cure tooth ache. Along the way, all kinds of objects unveil their story to us, and are revealing of how much technology has evolved. To Hélio, many of these exhibits are totally foreign, so we take the time to explain their uses to him. Well, at least those we recognize…
As usual, our son is intrigued by the interactive terminals. The Museum for Walloon Life, even boasts one in the shape of a time-travelling car. First you pick a date, and then you are transported to a different time by way of a short video clip. Finally, we admire large cubes made out of materials typical of the area (coal, clay, stone…) and that broadcast snippets of dialogue in the different Walloon dialects.
What surprised us the most? How heavy the puppets are !
Puppeteer for a day
To end our discovery-packed day in the Museum for Walloon Life, we head towards the temporary exhibition “Super marionettes”. It has a very modern and brightly coloured scenography, and we are invited to discover everything there is to know about puppets, from their production to how to bring a puppet to life. We really had no idea of how important this aspect of Walloon heritage is. The tour is also a lot of fun; at the start of our visit we are entrusted with a mission: find the letters that are hidden throughout the exhibition. Every time we reach a new level, we are given a few clues to point us in the right direction. The brains behind the exhibition were extremely creative in their choice of hiding places, to say the least…
Our son has a lot of fun trying his hand at puppeteering in the different settings provided by the museum. We also get to touch the different materials that are used to create the puppets. What surprised us the most about the puppets is how heavy they are! A learning activity with bags filled with sand reproduces the weight of the different types of puppet, and some of them are surprisingly heavy. There are even two tiny puppet theatres where you can try your hand at puppeteering. In the first, you can use all kinds of marionettes to practice your puppeteering skills and put the characters into action. As for the second, it’s a shadow theatre, and the children become life-size puppets, which invariably provokes bouts of laughter.
And so our visit to the museum comes to an end, to the sound of loud applause. Because we are in no hurry to leave and we want to enjoy the building’s stunning architecture a little while longer, we decide to have lunch in the museum restaurant, called “Le Cloître” (The Cloister). While we wait for the typical local dishes we have ordered, our son turns the restaurant into his playground, or rather his very own puppet theatre. He entertains us with a joyful rendering inspired by our museum visit. Guess who was pulling the strings and totally stole the show?
Enjoy this experience
Musée de la Vie wallonne (Museum for Walloon Life)
Rue des Mineurs , 4000 Liège (Belgium)
Tel: +32 (0) 4 279 20 31
More information : click here
Open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:30 to 18:00. Closed during the second week in January, on 01/01, 01/05, 01/11 & 25/12.
The exhibition "Super Marionnettes" was held until 31/12/19
Adults: € 5
Senior citizens and students: € 4
Children: € 3
Group rates available, access to persons with reduced mobility, blind dogs are accepted.
Besides the permanent and temporary exhibitions, the musuem organises a wealth of activities for children (puppet theatre, story reading...). Check out the detailed programme on their website