Wed 23 December 2022

Changing landscapes of the Minett

Preserving industrial heritage

Travel back in time by exploring a series of images depicting the industrial and mining landscapes of the Minett region. Starting with works by Luxembourg painter René Wampach (1920-2000), who throughout his life was committed to preserving national heritage through paintings and drawings, the journey continues with historical and contemporary images showing the evolution and transformation of the Minett.

The collection by painter René Wampach, made available to us by his family, contains more than 1,500 drawings and paintings that illustrate landscapes throughout the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg: the countryside and towns in regions from Oesling to Guttland, via the Moselle and the Valley of the Seven Castles, and not forgetting the Minett, the home region of the Differdange-born artist. The C2DH set itself the task of digitising the works by René Wampach, starting with the pencil and ink drawings and the watercolours depicting landscapes in southern Luxembourg.

Photos from local and national archives can help chronicle the changing industrial landscapes of the Minett region. The municipal archives of Sanem, Differdange, Dudelange and Esch-sur-Alzette have extensive image collections. The Luxembourg City Photothèque (Photographic Archive) and the National Audiovisual Centre (CNA) also have a large number of photos and postcards illustrating the selected sites.

The aim of this chapter is twofold: first, it seeks to show the public how the landscapes in southern Luxembourg have changed over time by presenting a range of images that document this transformation. And second, it wants to highlight the works of painter René Wampach, a unique collection in Luxembourg that represents a valuable part of the country’s cultural heritage.

Depictions of the various industrial sites can be visualised via an interactive map. When users select a place, they can see the drawing or watercolour by René Wampach illustrating that industrial site. They are also shown a selection of historical or more recent photos that show the same site in different eras. Each image has a title and caption to describe and contextualise the place as it was when the image was produced.


Virtual Walk in the Haard

Have you ever gone for a walk in the south of Luxembourg? If not, you’re missing something special! This landscape has undergone immense change over the past two hundred years and is full of history. Come with us on a virtual walk through a particularly historic part of the Minett: what is now known as the Haard nature conservation area.

The “Haard” is an area of 600 hectares that stretches across the three municipalities of Dudelange, Rumelange and Kayl-Tétange. Today, it is a hilly and densely wooded nature conservation area; an inviting place for a nature walk. From the 1880s to the early 1970s, it was an intensively mined region with 17 mining concessions (3 underground mines and 14 open-cast mines), where minette ore was quarried. In the middle of this industrial mining age, in 1924, a knowledgeable visitor compared the Haard and its rugged, red-hot rock faces sprouting only sparse pine trees and stunted fir trees to the landscape of Colorado in the United States. While an extensive network of tunnels was created for underground mining, open-cast mining used a huge quantity of explosives. The highest productivity levels in the mining area there were reached after World War II with the use of giant industrial machines.

The neighbouring iron and steel works also dumped a lot of their industrial waste in the Haard, creating huge slag heaps known as “Gafelt”. With the demise of mining and the closure of the last mine in 1972, the flora and fauna began to return and the desolate red moonscape turned green again. In 1994, the Haard was identified as a nature conservation area. Today it is part of the first “biosphere reserve” in Luxembourg, officially recognised by UNESCO in 2020.

Our virtual walk through the Haard aims to make these deep-seated changes in the landscape caused by humans a tangible experience for visitors. Beneath the green surface and often still visible in many places, there are traces of the area’s long industrial history. With its many overlapping layers, the Haard can be compared to a palimpsest, a writing medium from the Middle Ages such as a parchment that was used multiple times by scraping or rubbing off the previous writing. In summer or winter, a walk through this area takes you from one landscape to another. Wherever you end up, traces of the industrial past are always more or less present amidst the lush vegetation. And so a walk through the Haard represents an exciting journey back in time through the ages.

Images copyrights
© Archives de la famille Wampach