The history of the museum

A regional and collectors’ museum

affiche19301930's poster for the Musée Dobrée

The Musée Thomas Dobrée first opened its doors to the public on 8 January 1899. It brought together the collections of two museums that wanted to preserve important collections by entrusting them to a public authority.  

  • The Musée départemental d'Archéologie (Departmental Museum of Archaeology) was established following the donation, in 1860, of the collections amassed by the Nantes and Loire-Atlantique History and Archaeological Society to the Département. This society was founded in 1845 and its headquarters are still located at the Manoir de la Touche.
  • The Musée Thomas Dobrée museum was born from the bequest in 1894 by Thomas II Dobrée (1810-1895). Dobrée was a ship-owner and trader from a Protestant family from Normandy who had sought refuge from the religious wars in Guernsey (1559). Of independent means, Thomas Dobrée was an avid collector with a passion for the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

In 1862, Thomas Dobrée acquired the site of the episcopal Manoir (manor) de la Touche, also known as the Manoir Jean V (15th and 19th centuries). On this plot, between 1862 and 1898, he built his ‘Romanesque-style residence’ to house and showcase his art collection. This private residence was left to the Département who founded the Musée Thomas Dobrée.

The origins of the collections

The museum’s collections therefore, come from two sources. Over the years, they have grown and have become more diverse thanks to:

  • Donations and bequests by archaeologists and collectors
  • Works given by the State and territorial authorities
  • Acquisitions made by the museum in an effort to strengthen its key collections, rather than filling in the gaps of others.

An exceptional estate

In 1972-1973, another building was added to the existing buildings consisting of the Manoir de la Touche (15th and 19th century), the Palais Dobrée (19th century) and the 19th-century Maison du Jardinier (Gardener’s House). This building was the ‘Voltaire building’ housing the preservation and documentation departments, permanent regional archaeology exhibits, an auditorium, underground galleries and some storage areas.

The Palais Dobrée and the Manoir de la Touche are examples of a strong and structured architecture in an area of Nantes filled with copious examples of historical monuments and heritage sites. The Dobrée site is found in a dynamic historical, cultural and commercial district of the Loire, in the west of the city, opposite the Île de Nantes, in a new district renowned for its rich cultural and creative vibrancy. 

Discover the Musée Dobrée down through the centuries with these maps dating from 1850 on the following website: