old picture of the MIAT building, seen from a height

Ghent and the first industrial revolution

Ghent has been an important artisanal and pre-industrial city since the Middle Ages. And it fuelled the first industrial revolution on mainland Europe at the end of the eighteenth century.  

Preserving the industrial culture  

From the 1970s much of the evidence of the first and second industrial revolutions was demolished or scrapped. Ghent city council responded with a commitment to preserving machines and objects. For the first time the idea was mooted of a museum to house symbols of the industrial culture

In search of a suitable location

Initially the MIAT administration was housed in the City Archives in Abrahamstraat. Later on the museum moved to the Gewad, near the Gravensteen. In 1985 the MIAT was given permission to use the former Desmet-Guequier cotton-spinning factory as a storehouse. In 1989 Ghent city council decided that this factory was also the most suitable location for showing the MIAT collection.

Museum on the Minnemeers

In the spring of 1991 the MIAT moved into the former cotton-spinning factory on the Minnemeers, where the already substantially extended museum library was located. The museum set about developing a permanent display as well as temporary exhibitions.

The industrial society and the history of textiles   

The overview of the industrial society provided by the MIAT occupies an area of 1,800 m². The ‘Our Industrial Past’ exhibition turns the clock back 250 years and tells the story of the first industrial revolution and the advent of the machine.

The ‘WorldWideWorking’ exhibition follows on with the impact of the industrial revolutions on our private and working lives. 

The ‘Cotton Cacophony’ exhibition traces the production process from cotton plant to finished cotton product. Volunteers set the textile machines in motion. The spectacle is impressive but the noise deafening! The museum garden and its variety of dye plants complements this textile section. The plants are still used for dyeing textiles naturally in the workshops organized by the museum.