Frédéric Mitterand’s Museum plan

Frédéric Mitterand during
the press conference announcing the Museum
9 September 2010
Photo : Didier Rykner

After having recently expressed our doubts about the Culture Minister’s inactivity (see our editorial in French), he seems to have decided to prove us wrong by presenting a “Plan Musées en regions” (in fact, the word “regions” is unnecessary as this includes Parisian museums). Frédéric Mitterand has indeed reaffirmed “the major role which museums play in national development” […]. He therefore intends to offer 70 million additional euros over the next three years to help a certain number of projects in 79 museums and explained that this amount “will be obtained by reallocating funds within the ministry at no detriment to anyone”. This would seem to be a complicated exercise even if 70 million euros, out of a global budget of 2.8 billion, is still a modest figure.

As pointed out by a reporter during the press conference, 70 million divided by three years and 79 museums, does not add up to very much for each one [1]. The minister answered by saying that this was meant to add a bit of money to projects already included in current budgets, emphasizing that the various amounts would not be distributed equally, with some receiving more than others. The press release states that contributions will be modulated and adapted to each context. In the case of national museums, the government will of course finance the entire project. For the other museums, the government will either be “a partner”, meaning it will contribute anywhere from 15 to 20 % or else “an inciting element” by contributing more significantly, from 30 to 35 %.

It would be a mistake to look skeptically at these relatively modest sums. The fact that the ministry is trying to help the museums is important on a symbolic level. Frédéric Mitterand is right in fact to point out that this aid might serve as a stimulus. The government’s interest in certain projects might indeed convince local authorities to provide further support. In any case, in these difficult times for museums and heritage in general, any added funds to a budget are welcome.
Of course, these announcements must be effectively applied, and this funding not be siphoned off from other heritage sectors but a real addition to the budget. At the moment, as we all know, many historical monuments carry a sign labeled “renewed”, when in many cases these are projects which had already been financed and have not received additional funding.

We talked with many of the curators of the museums included in the list supplied by the minister. Although none of them knew how much they would be allotted (some even learned the news from us), most of them had heard of the Museum plan and received confirmation that this would be additional funding. We will however remain particularly vigilant on this point. For instance, we point out that the government’s contribution for the extension of the Musée d’Art et d’Industrie André Diligent (La Piscine) in Roubaix, a city which is particularly in the throes of the economic crisis thus all the more commendable for investing in culture [2], was below (33%) the amount it received for building the museum. It is thus highly probable that in this precise case, the Plan musées will reach the same level, at most.

We will not list here all the establishments concerned by the measure, which include Fine arts museums, as well archeological, sociological, historical…establishments. The Art Tribune has already mentioned some of these projects, such as that of Unterlinden in Colmar (see article in French), the Musée Girodet in Montargis (see article in French), the Musée des Terre-Neuves et de la Pêche in Fécamp (see article in French)… We were already informed of several others which we did not mention on our site (transfer of the Musée de Carpentras, that of Beaux-Arts in Reims ; renovation and/or extension of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon, the Musée de Pont-Aven, the Musée Courbet in Ornans, the Musée Historique lorrain, the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Nantes, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Valence… ; the creation of storage facilities in Tours…). Some we were not aware of such as the renovation of the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne, and also at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Arras…
We must admit that the list of projects is an impressive one although some are less ambitious than they look. Among these are several establishments included in Marseille Provence 2013 (that is “Marseille, European Cultural Capital”). The fact is that for example, the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Marseille, the major and long-awaited project which would enable it to really enlarge its exhibition spaces in order to display a much bigger fraction of its collections will not take place and that the city will have to settle for a minimal renovation of the Palais Longchamp. Some projects have been in the works for years but are continuously postponed. We can only hope that this Plan musées will finally put an end to certain situations and for others, speed up the work.

In concluding, there is a clear pattern in museum planning of two plans of action. Some cities have understood that museums are not just a financial burden but, rather, can be a major asset whereas others decide to close them or simply let them fade out. On this matter, we asked Frédéric Mitterand about museum closings, particularly that of the Assistance Publique (see article). He answered by emphasizing that he was not directly in charge of this museum (which is true), that he was “engaged in a serious conversation with the Ministry of Health” and that he was looking into the case. He even quoted the example of the Musée Hébert, closed for many years, saying that it would soon benefit from repairs leading to its reopening under the aegis of the Musée d’Orsay to which it is linked. This shows that the minister knows, at times, how to answer potentially embarrassing questions without resorting to lip service. Might he one day even possibly respond to our request for an interview ?

Didier Rykner, mardi 14 septembre 2010


[1] A little more than 295.000 €.

[2] Especially since it has decided to save the Musée Bouchard by recovering its collections.

imprimer Print this article

Previous article in Museums : Endangered museums (4) : the Musée de l’Assistance Publique

Next article in Museums : The Musée de l’Histoire de France will be housed at the Archives Nationales