Recognized by Unesco’s specialized committee at the end of 2018, the skills related to perfume in Pays de Grasse cover three different aspects: the cultivation of perfume plants; the knowledge and processing of natural raw materials and the art of perfume composition. The practice involves a wide range of communities and groups, brought together under the Association du Patrimoine Vivant du Pays de Grasse (Living Heritage Association of the Region of Grasse). Since at least the sixteenth century, the practices of growing and processing perfume plants and creating fragrant blends have been developed in Pays de Grasse, in a craft industry long dominated by leather tanning. Perfume plant cultivation involves a wide range of skills and knowledge, for instance pertaining to nature, soil, weather, biology, plant physiology and horticultural practices, as well as specific techniques such as extraction and hydraulic distillation methods.
The inhabitants of Grasse have made these techniques their own and helped improve them. In addition to technical skills, however, the art also calls for imagination, memory and creativity. Perfume forges social bonds and provides an important source of seasonal labour. Related knowledge is mostly transmitted informally through a long learning process that still takes place primarily in perfumeries. An important institution is The International Perfume Museum, founded in 1989, the only museum of its kind in the world, located in the iconic town of Grasse, the birthplace of luxury perfumes of which France was the initiator. Dedicated to one of the most prestigious traditional French activities, the International Perfume Museum is a public institution labelled “Museum of France” allowing visitors to discover the history and uniqueness of the profession of manufacturers and large perfumery houses. A true testament to the international technical, aesthetic, social and cultural history of the tradition of the use of scents, the museum takes an anthropological approach to the history of fragrances in all its aspects – raw materials, manufacturing, industry, innovation, trading, design, uses and through a variety of forms- art objects, decorative arts, textiles, archaeological evidence, unique pieces or industrial forms. In 2019, MIP is reinventing itself to shed new light on perfumery with three spacious new emblematic areas in the Museum and its permanent exhibition, concerning the period from the Renaissance to the 21st century.