In our last story, we wrote about the charming center of Coppet, on the shores of Lake Geneva. If you visit this small medieval town, you should definitely not miss its small and hidden local museum: the Vieux-Coppet.
If you are lucky enough, you will probably meet, as we did when visiting the town, an elderly and talkative man who will be more than happy to tell you everything about the history of Coppet. He also happens to be the curator of the Vieux-Coppet Museum. Fortunately, he showed us the entrance to this free museum, which can be easily missed if not paying attention.
Located in a 16th-century house, the entrance of the museum is behind a small and unnoticeable wooden door underneath the old stone arcades of Coppet’s main street. A steep, creaky staircase leads to the first floor inside Maison Michel (Michel House), another name of the Vieux-Coppet Museum. The house once was the property of the Michel family. In 1944, Ms. Michel gifted the old house to the municipality to be transformed into a museum, exhibiting an authentic 18th and 19th centuries middle-class residence.
The appearance of this 16th-century house is very typical of the time. The main façade is very narrow because of the measurement tax that was collected on the façade’s width. The house counts two floors above the ground floor (plus an attic), which is a bit unusual as the traditional 16th-century houses had only one floor in general. The ground floor under the stone arcades used to be a shop, where the Michel family sold their own liquor and vinegar.
The first floor was dedicated to family life and is composed of the living room, dining room, vestibule, and kitchen. With only a few windows on the front and back façades of the house, the interior is very dark. As it no longer matched the standards of the 19th century, a skylight was added. On this first floor, you will find a variety of 19th-century furniture and decorative objects in the bright living and dining rooms, where guests used to be entertained. However, on the north side of the house, the kitchen is a very dark room, as it was the place for the domestics. No attention was paid at all to its appearance.
Two staircases, one for the family and one for the domestics, lead to the second floor. The bedrooms are decorated with Empire style furniture and a curious attribute for the time: a standing 18th-century shower! The cabin is built on wheels so that it could be placed in front of the fire. The music room exhibits 19th-century music instruments, mostly crafted by a local instrument maker.
An extensive collection of antique weapons, clockworks, religious objects, and old toys can be found in the attic. Another curiosity is the old wooden cabin used to discipline the children of Coppet: the unfortunate disruptive students were locked in during class!
The Vieux-Coppet Museum may not seem very attractive at first, but it definitely deserves a visit. Its charming curator will surely make your visit very interesting! It is no doubt an excellent way to learn more about Coppet’s history for free. From April to October, the museum is open on Thursdays and Fridays afternoon, as well as on Saturdays. During the rest of the year, visits can be arranged on demand.
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