On Thursday, February 8, we headed out to the Musée du Liège, or the Cork Museum. Having just opened from their annual break last week, we had been looking forward to visiting another quirky little museum.
Wow! We never realized how much goes into the manufacturing of cork, or that there is a scale of quality for corks, or that it is a renewable resource or that it all has to be harvested by hand.
Though we were only in the museum for an hour — 20 minutes of which were spent watching a wonderful documentary about cork production in our region — we learned quite a bit!
For instance, cork is a type of oak tree and it takes 30 years to mature enough to be harvested. It is a natural firebreak and in the early days of firefighting it was used for helmets.
Cork oaks only grow in a few regions around the globe and has never been successfully introduced into non-natural climates. Our region and others around the Mediterranean produce more than 70 percent of the cork used world-wide.
The largest cork in the world is housed in a little museum in a tiny village called, Maureillas about an hour by bus from our little village and about 5 minutes from Ceret.
It is a very large cork. 2.4 meters tall and 1.3 meters in diameter, roughly 7 feet, 10 1/2 inches tall by 4 feet, 3 inches in diameter.
Housed in the old cork factory, the museum has four display rooms and a small gift shop. The modern room upstairs has a 20-minute documentary playing on a loop, samples of items that cork was historically used for, and a beautiful photo exhibit showing black and white photos of cork being harvested as well as a few historic photos of cork being hand processed after harvesting.
The second upstairs display is housed in part of the old warehouse and has many beautiful works of art all created out of cork. The room is has a large opening in the center of the space where you can peer over the railing into the display room below.
The room below features cork and wine products from around the world all housed in six enormous old wine casks. These are seriously large enough to add in 2 sets of bunkbeds and call it a cabin. I loved the dimmed lighting and colorful displays, especially the one with a large assortment of old jars that all have old corks in them.
The other room downstairs has the world’s largest cork, a large assortment of old machinery used in cork manufacturing. All of which are easily identifiable if you watched the film in the first room upstairs. My favorite in this room, other than the giant cork, was the small display on the quality of cork. With samples of what is the most desirable to the least.
This small museum is easily traversed within an hour, even with time for photos, and oddly enriching and educational. We completely enjoyed ourselves and highly recommend stopping in for a few minutes and checking it out.