Musée de May-sur-Orne

Musée de la Mine

Useful Information

(49.099474, -0.376856)
Open: All year 1st Sat 14-18.
Fee: free.
Classification: MineIron Mine
Light: SubterraneaMining Museum LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Address: Musée de May-sur-Orne, Parc de la mairie, 14320 May-sur-Orne, Tel: +33-231-79-80-93, Fax: +33-231-79-56-55. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1891 begin of iron mining by Ernest Chollet.
1968 iron mine closed.



The Musée de May-sur-Orne (May-sur-Orne Museum) sounds like a local history museum, but its second name is Musée de la Mine (Mining Museum). For two centuries the economic backbone of the city was mining, starting with some rock quarries. Near the hamlet of Val de Laize dark red-veined marble was discovered. Another quarry on the road to Fontenay produced arduous building stone known in the country under the name Voisdry. But the real mining started with the discovery of iron ore at the end of the 18th century. A iron mine was opened, miners from Italy, Poland and Russia came to the town, and the population increased from 423 people in 1818 to 517 in 1841 and then to 619 people in 1881.

According to local lore, the iron ore was discovered by Ernest Chollet, who was the mayor of May. One version tells, he was hunting with his geologist friend when he leaned over the red earth, and they realized that this was iron oxide. Another version says, that he was digging pits to plant apple trees, when the earth in the pits became red, and he realized it was iron ore. No matter which version you believe, Ernest Chollet not only discovered the iron ore, he also opened the mine in 1891.

The mine operated until 1968, or 1969, depending on the source, it seems to be quite difficult to determine. However, in the 80 years of operation it produced 20 million tons of iron ore with an iron content of 40 % to 50 %. The mine was continually in operation, it did not close for war, and was operated by the Germans during occupation. When the y lost, they flooded the mine and destroyed the surface buildings, but nevertheless, mining continued. May sur Orne was taken and recaptured seven times, finally it was liberated in 1944 by Canadian soldiers from the “Maisonneuve” regiment. The village was rebuilt between 1952 and 1962.