A digital portal for the Villèle museum

The Villèle historical Museum is an emblematic site representing a specific period in the history of the plantation society, centred around the crops of coffee, cotton and sugar cane.

This former estate, created at the end of the 18th century by the Panon-Desbassayns family, reflects the development of the social and economic organisation of the island up to the 1970s. It evokes the way of life of a family of plantation owners, as well as that of the workers, slaves, indentured workers and small settlers, whose history is linked to that of the masters of the estate.

The purpose of the museum is to reflect the history of the estate through its buildings, gardens, material and immaterial remains, that characterise the site, while at the same time developing a specific museographical circuit focusing on the period of slavery on Reunion island.

In this digital era, setting up a new reference website appeared essential. This digital portal, with direct links to the website of the Villèle historical museum and centred around its collections, its cultural content and its ongoing events, also aims to offer a documentary database consisting of texts by researchers, historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and museum curators, brought together within a scientific committee set up in 2018.

Presented as an updated specialised resource centre around the plantation society, the Desbassayns estate, the history and memory of slavery in Reunion, the arborescence of the site enables web users to access the different sections, each dealing with a specific topic: the French East India Company, families of Plantation owners, the sugarcane economy, the Panon-Desbassayns and Villèle families, the slave trade in the Indian Ocean, the Code Noir, indentured workers, chronology of the abolition of slavery, the cultural heritage of slavery, places of memory etc.

A website for the general public

The texts written by the contributors are often illustrated with iconographic documents conserved in the heritage institutions of Reunion or mainland France. They are aimed both at visitors curious to obtain general information, as well as specialised members of the public (school pupils, students, teachers etc.), wishing to carry out more thorough research and obtain information provided by researchers from different horizons.

An evolving website

The ambitious challenge of the website is ultimately, on the one hand to create a reference digital portal, an information tool dedicated to the plantation society and the history of slavery in Reunion and, on the other hand, to give researchers, heritage structures, artists, associations etc. a free space, enabling them to contribute to the progress of research in the field.

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