The town of Saint-Martin-de-Ré houses the Ernest Cognacq museum, which is an authentic cultural center of Ré island, with rich collections of art, history and ethnology.
The museum bears the name of an eminent Martinique personality, Ernest Cognacq. This businessman, founder of a department store in Paris, bought the collections of a local scholar to offer them to his native commune. This marks the beginning of the municipal museum of Saint-Martin-de-Ré, in 1907.
The municipality of Saint-Martin chose to establish the museum between the walls of one of the oldest buildings of the city, Hotel Clerjotte. This medieval building was founded around 1470 and was embellished in the 16th and 17th century by adding two wings. After the construction of the ramparts and the citadel of Saint Martin by Vauban, the building was transformed into a military arsenal and kept this function until the 20th century. It was not until 1950 that it was converted into a museum by the municipality of Martinique.
The Ernest Cognacq Museum deals with various subjects such as archeology and natural history, arts and folk traditions as well as extra-European ethnography.
As far as ethnography is concerned, it is possible to contemplate various objects coming from the African continent, Asiatic Oceanic and South American. We can admire, for example, a Gabonese statue, Canaques puzzles or asian costumes.
The museum's archaeological collections are mainly composed of pieces found during excavations of historic sites on the island such as the Peu-Pierroux and the Abbaye des Châteliers. Ceramics and jewelery from the Middle Ages thus occupy a prominent place among the possessions of the museum.
The popular arts and traditions section of Ré island maintains various domestic objects, tools, clothing and other items that recall the techniques and know-how of the former inhabitants of the island. The main theme of this section is the art of living.