The Amis du Musée in Morliax Worried about its Future

The Jacobin convent in Morlaix,
current location of the museum which should soon occupy the entire building
Photo : Didier Rykner

26/11/13 - Museum - Morlaix - Last summer we had pointed out the interesting exhibition at the Musée de Morlaix highlighting Louis Marie Baader, a welcome retrospective which focused on an artist who is well represented with several works in the museum, reflecting the vocation of this establishment.
However, as we always say, a museum’s wealth lies first in its permanent collections. In this case, as proven by what we saw when we visited the museum, although it is partly located inside a remarkable historical monument, the former Jacobin convent which furthermore provides the chance to enlarge the museum by using the rooms now avalaible, the museum is in fact almost entirely closed.

Ever since the chapel presenting the permanent collections was shut off for security reasons, various projects have been submitted but none ever carried out. For some time, the idea was to move the museum to the site of the Manufacture des Tabacs, since the Jacobin convent was supposed to welcome a "cité judiciare". After several studies, decisions, back-pedaling, the plan was finally abandoned. In 2010 a new project was put forth which was in fact quite sensible and was to install the museum inside the convent. The refurbishment work was supposed to have started in 2013 and the opening planned for 2015. But there seem to be a long series of delays. Two new studies were launched in 2013 : one supervised by the Director, Cyrielle Durox, is a cultural and scientific rehabilitation project ; the other one is an architectural study including a diagnostic, a feasibility study and a programming study. These studies were submitted last May.

However, according to the Association "Les Amis du musée" which published a press release, they are being used simply to gain time and delay a decision and city hall has no real intention of following up on any initiative : "the partners of the financing plan have not been consulted and no subsidies have been requested." The association thus concludes that : "Elected officials come and go, but our heritage remains and continues to be ignored."
We spoke at length with Agnès Le Brun, the mayor of Morlaix, who told us she understood the association’s frustration but regrets they are targeting the wrong culprit in this affair. She says she is very concerned about the museum’s future but that the project will take time and that everything is now in place for it to begin. According to her, again, the DRAC has apparently agreed to list the museum in the "pacte d’avenir" [pact for the future] (which comes at a very opportune moment in this case) ; this, along with the signifant decrease in the city’s debt (which she says has gone down since 2008 from 1,400€ to 730 per resident), means the work can start soon. She states that the refurbishment, for a total cost of 12 million euros, would be spread out over four years and would begin with the renovation of the convent (notably the rosace, which is crumbling).

The Morlaix collections are quite extensive, particularly for the 19th century, and also include a few old masters. We were able to view the works not on display and we found them to be in no danger, as opposed to what the association would lead us to believe. They are held in good conservation conditions although the association is right in saying that the buildings do run the risk of deteriorating unless they are repaired and that the museum has been closed now for too long.
We do not know enough about the situation in Morlaix to express an opinion about who is responsible for what. We would simply point out that the current team at city hall is not the same one which originally closed the museum (eleven years ago already !) and that, given the urgent character of the situation at the moment, it does appear to be determined to find a solution in the very near future.

The association’s cry of alarm will in any case have had a positive result in that it has focused attention on the conditions at the museum and forced city hall to make a public commitment to resolving the situation. We will be following progress on the project with great interest as Agnès Le Brun has expressed such strong determination. Now it just has to be carried out.

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Didier Rykner, mardi 26 novembre 2013

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