The Ars Mechanica Foundation
For the Herstal Group’s heritage
Throughout its history the Herstal Group has shown itself capable of creating the most innovative and varied solutions, in both military and civilian fields, from shotguns to machine guns, even including automobiles and turbojets. In 2008 the Herstal Group, about to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the founding of FN, set up a public interest heritage foundation, recognized and supported by the King Baudouin Foundation: the Ars Mechanica Foundation. The choice of a Greco Latin sounding name reflects a will to be universal, both through the language used, and the meaning, which denotes a mastery of all mechanical arts, as the many fields that FN explored throughout its history. This is intended to honor manual work, in its most noble form: skill, love of craftsmanship, discipline, engineering, innovation, going beyond limits, passing on knowledge, sharing.
Why a foundation?
The primary objective of the foundation, as defined in its charter, is “to gather, conserve, manage, protect, and showcase a heritage collection composed of objects and documents of historical interest of all types; industrial, technological, commercial, manufactured or designed by, or associated with one of the past, present or future companies of the Herstal Group, in order to conserve examples of the rich industrial history of Liège, and even the wider world, to which these companies contributed so greatly”. The Foundation alone, through its legal status, is able to fulfill the mission of conserving the history of the mechanical arts and ensure that the heritage of the Group will be kept safe for future generations.
Promoting the heritage of the Herstal Group across multiple channels
The foundation fulfills the role of a museum, by defining a policy of acquisition, restauration, and management of the tangible and intangible heritage of the Group. This goal has been realized by the opening of a showroom on the Herstal site, where products that made the FN Herstal, Browning and Winchester brands so successful are displayed. This showroom has been renovated this year in a completely new layout, a true showcase for the knowhow of the Herstal Group, and a testbed for the creation of a larger museum that will open in the coming years. The foundation also publishes the magazine Memories of FN, now named Ars Mechanica Magazine, which periodically highlights a specific subject from the history of the Herstal Group. We are also currently working on rewriting and updating the book that gave its name to the Foundation: Ars Mechanica, which will be released in early 2022. Lastly, new communication media, such as a website, will be accessible next year.
A new brand identity
To conclude, the Ars Mechanica foundation, a privately owned entity, stands out in the field of museums for its dual role. On the one hand, it cultivates corporate spirit by passing on to successive generations of workers a culture of pride in the workplace, with its processes and iconic products. On the other hand, the Foundation participates in meeting social responsibility, in keeping alive a community, for the history of FN goes beyond that of the company: affecting society at all levels, great and small, linking in to family histories, the history of the town of Herstal, of the region of Liege, of Belgium, and more widely across the world through its subsidiaries. For greater efficiency and clarity, the Foundation has begun a complete revision of its visual identity and its missions, to generate a new impetus and to reposition itself within the Herstal Group. Because it deals with all their fields of activity, the corporate heritage represents common ground for all subsidiaries. As a uniting force it can therefore act as the most effective channel for communicating with civil society, and be an effective strategic tool, creating a dialogue between the present, the past, and the future.