Salagon has known many different uses during its 2,000-year history. It was a neolithic habitat, Gallic farm, Gallo-Roman villa, funeral basilica in late Antiquity, Benedictine priory, country residence and then a farm again, with the nearby church reconsecrated and listed as a historic monument in 1922...
After World War II, during which the Italian army requisitioned the church for use as a stable, only a visionary could have imagined the site becoming a museum thirty years later.
Pierre Martel, founding father
In 1953, Reverend Pierre Martel, parish priest of Mane, founded the Alpes de Lumière association. Aim: to study, safeguard and showcase the architectural, natural and cultural heritage of Haute-Provence, including local, building, domestic and environmental expertise. At this time, the rural world was not held in high esteem.
In Haute-Provence as elsewhere, the rural exodus was in full swing. The Alpes de Lumière association collected stories, archives, photos and objects to conserve and showcase rural culture, and pass it on to the young generation. This collection formed the basis of the museum.
A museum is founded
Under the impetus of Pierre Martel and the association, a cultural project for Salagon began to take shape. In 1981, Mane village council took the first step towards making the project reality when it bought the site from the last owner. Alpes de Lumière opened its Haute-Provence conservation centre to the public, laying the foundations for today's museum.
During this same year, 1981, the Salagon site as a whole was listed as a historic monument. A new chapter in the reconstruction began. It was to last around fifteen years, and was made possible by the village council, the department council (which took ownership of the site in 1984), Provence-Alpes-Cote-d'Azur region council and the French Ministry of Culture.
During this period, Salagon Museum was officially created and the ethnobotanical gardens were developed as part of a government programme of research into popular knowledge of nature. The Salagon cultural, museum and ethnobotanical project developed, gradually taking possession of the site.
In January 2000, the site as a whole passed into the hands of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department. This enabled the museum to gradually become more professional, and it received "Musée de France" certification in 2002.