In Saint-Avold, an exhibition retraces the Bata adventure in Moselle

“It is indeed a Bata advertising slogan that we find on a poster that we keep in our archive and that is why we used it for the name of our exhibition. “

This exhibition is organized on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the creation of Bataville, in Moselle. At the origin of this entrepreneurial adventure, there is the town of Zlín in Moravia where it all begins …



Zlin Photo: Josef Vaňhara, Tomáš Baťa Foundation

“In fact, we return to the exhibition on Zlín, which is the parent company of the organization founded by Tomáš Baťa. He not only founded a shoe factory but also a whole social concept around it. The city of Zlín hosted not only the production buildings, but also an innovative model of garden city for workers. From the Zlín model were created all the other Bata cities in the world including that of Moselle. “




Bataville |  Photo: CAITM

What else do you present in this more specific exhibition in Bataville en Moselle?




Tomš Baťa founder |  Photo: CAITM

“I go back to the origin of this exhibition. We have the particularity of the Departmental Archives of Moselle which has an annex dedicated to the economic archives of having recovered all the archives of the Bata adventure in Moselle. You know that all this stopped abruptly in 2001 and employees and trade unionists recovered all the archives that had been left behind. They safeguarded the archive collection which they deposited in the departmental archives. So we have all the archives from the foundation to the liquidation kept here. We also wanted this exhibition to enhance this archival collection since this type of community’s mission is to conserve, but also to promote them through exhibitions. What is most notable in the collection are the photographs because absolutely everything was photographed: we have one photo album per year, so a total of 10,000 photos retracing the entire Bata adventure in Moselle. These albums reflect a little bit of a year of life in Bata because it also includes all the festivals that punctuated the lives of employees living in the city, Saint-Nicolas, Christmas, the leather festival, May 1, the festival of swimming pool… all those celebrations which were intended to unite this community of workers, this community of life. These are very beautiful photos that we had not yet had the opportunity to highlight. “




Practical shoemaking school in Bataville in 1939 |  Photo: CAITM

You do well to remember that: there was a very particular entrepreneurial spirit at Bata, whether in Zlín, Bataville or elsewhere. It was inspired by paternalistic managerial methods. The employees were literally guided in their daily life: we ate Bata, we slept Bata, we obviously also put on Bata. Everything revolved around this Bata life …




City of sport - basketball |  Photo: CAITM

“What initially interested us was that our archive service was made up from those of the coal mines of the Lorraine basin, the mine which is another very important industrial part of the region. What is interesting is that we can draw a full parallel between the paternalism put in place by the bosses of the coal mines at the time and Bata. Bata is also settling in a very rural sector of Lorraine, we are really in the rural and agricultural Moselle and there is not much. There, everything has to be built: the buildings of the factory and to turn its inhabitants into workers in a company with very modern managerial methods. We therefore have a population that is fairly malleable and that needs to be trained from start to finish. These people will be trained in the Bata spirit at the same time as in the manufacture of the shoe. So it’s an interesting experience to tell. “




Factory outlet in 1939 |  Photo: CAITM

You recalled that Bata en Moselle closed its doors on December 21, 2001. It was a shock for the region …




2001 - The end |  Photo: CAITM

“As for the mine where everything stopped quite suddenly, where people were guided in their daily lives because they were born coal, they grew coal and they died coal, in the Bataville sector it was even worse because even in 2001, it was a very little industrialized area. We have people who were happy to work at Bata who come to see the exhibition and still talk about it with a sparkle in their eyes. Indeed, it was their entire life, both in terms of work and social life. It was all the more difficult when it all came to a screeching halt. This is the lot of these mono-industrial territories: these people did not know what to make shoes, for some they did not even have a driving license because buses shuttled to pick up those who did not live there in the city. Finding work for these people was extremely complicated. Within half an hour by car, there wasn’t much else to do. A little more than 800 people were left behind and had difficulty in finding work. “

Let’s talk about the state of the site at the moment. There are trends today to try to rehabilitate old industrial sites. To what extent is this the case in Bataville?




Bataville |  Photo: CAITM

“There have been many projects since the closure. Companies have set up shop there. A former manager of Bataville himself founded his company there the day after the closure of Bata and which was called Hello, in reference to Hellocourt, the name of the domain. It didn’t last very long, he was a subcontractor to Bata and another shoe brand. Today, there is a heating engineer, a cardboard factory, an archiving company, it’s all alive. But there is an enthusiast who literally fell in love with this unique and atypical architectural site who bought buildings, who began to have them classified, who had industrial tourism projects, hotels, but that requires a lot of money and obviously there is a lack of financial support to go to the end. Recently, I heard about another project around the work of sheep wool since we are in an agricultural area where there are a lot of sheep. The idea would be to create an eco-organic site to recycle sheep wool. But it is true that the city is lacking in attractiveness and there are a lot of shutters that are closed. “




Cité du sport - first outdoor swimming pool in Moselle |  Photo: CAITM

It’s a bit of a complicated time to visit exhibits in these times of Covid, but what have been the reactions of the people who may have seen the exhibit so far?

“We stay in a complicated climate and we cannot say that visitors flock every day to see the exhibition. But there are people who have already come and who had worked in Bata. We are going to organize a day for these audiences. It will be next May. At the same time, a multidisciplinary CNRS program worked on the end of Bata, the restructuring of space. For more than five years, geographers, historians, sociologists have been working on this territory and its changes. Bata, it still really speaks to everyone. Perhaps less for schoolchildren who come to the archives because today there is no longer even a Bata shoe store in Moselle. It’s true that the brand image tends to fade, but for adults, Bata speaks right away. Two years ago we took part in a regional history day. We had brought back archives on the mine and on Bata, and spontaneously people came to talk to us. We all knew someone who had worked at Bata. After the mine, it was the second largest employer in the region. It is an image which tends to fade today and it is our role to speak again about this industrial epic which is unique in France. “



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