Article | Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1 | National Museums in France
Göm menyn

National Museums in France
Felicity Bodenstein:
Full text (pdf)
Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1
Article no.:
No. of pages:
Publication type:
Abstract and Fulltext
Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings
ISSN (print):
ISSN (online):
Linköping University Electronic Press; Linköpings universitet

Export in BibTex, RIS or text

Since the opening of the Museum du Louvre in 1793; France has developed an important network of state funded national museums; the majority of which are dedicated to art historical displays. This is especially the case for the majority of museums run by the RĂ©union des musĂ©es nationaux; a network that manages the largest group of national museums in France. It is striking that; at any given time throughout the country’s history; some of the most important creations of national museums came about as a direct result of the personal initiative and implication of the country’s leaders; whether they were kings; emperors or presidents. This proves the extent to which the museum was; and is; in France; an explicitly national enterprise of great political prestige and symbolic value. National museums have; since the Revolution; been a strong factor in the French nation building process and a clear definition of their administration; in terms of central state ownership; provides the best frame for their identification.

The Louvre; which obviously stands out as France’s most important national museum; may best be defined as a ’Universal Museum’ and thus as a reflection of the Enlightenment philosophy that greatly influenced the French Revolution; and the political agenda behind the establishment of the museum itself. However the breath of its scope; which has always strived for universality; is also the result of France’s status as a former Empire. Its collections were very much formed and defined during the era of Napoleonic expansion and; although it cannot be considered to be a colonial museum; it has throughout history benefitted from France’s relationships with colonies or areas of great political influence. The museum has contributed to founding France’s identity on values and ideas that places it beyond its national and political borders.

The clearest tendency that may be observed in the evolution of France’s national museums over time is geographic and related to the country’s extremely centralised form of government. This means that the great majority of national museums are indeed concentrated in and around the area of Paris (approx. 70%) with a remarkable number of major institutions situated along the banks of the Seine river: the Louvre; TrocadĂ©ro (musĂ©e de l’homme); Quai Branly; Orsay etc. They are also; by far and away; the most visited (DEP; 2010: 34).

The second very clear tendency is the definite hegemony of the art museum that has received its own administrative structure with the RMN; a phenomena which should be considered as significant when observed in relation to the; relatively speaking; small contingent of history museums. Scientific; historical and technological museums tend to be directly related to one of the other government ministries and form less well-coordinated networks.

These facts indicate that a choice of France’s five most important national museums (out of the eighty museums given in the annex) may neither be representative from a geographical point of view nor from a disciplinary one. It can only consider those institutions whose prestige has made them France’s most famous ambassadors of culture – both for the French themselves and internationally (France is the country with the greatest number of tourists visiting every year). The central hegemony of the Louvre over the world of French museums has already been stated. In choosing five major national museums; an attempt was made to encompass a variety of disciplines and territories; however categories related to France’s ideology of culture guided the selection that mainly seeks to give an idea of the significance of these institutions in terms of the national paradigm. It tries to illustrate the main ideologies that appear to be at work in the policies and programs responsible for the development of France’s national museums: the promotion of universal values (mainly of art); the illustration of national origins; culture and history and the representation of national grandeur and commemoration. One might add a more contemporary ideological tendency that has been put forward in policies behind the most recent national museum creations: the desire to represent diversity and to establish places of cultural dialogue (CitĂ© de l’immigration; MusĂ©e du quai Branly). The following table provides basic information on five of the most well known and visited of France’s national museums. Each museum will be considered as a case study at the end of this report; and taken as the most representative example in a specific genealogy of museums read as the expression of the ideologies outlined above.

Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1

Felicity Bodenstein
National Museums in France

Aronsson; Peter (2008) ‘Comparing National Museums: Methodological Reflections’; Comparing: National Museums; Territories; Nation-Building and Change. NaMu IV; Linköping University; Norrköping; Sweden 18–20 February 2008 (accessed December 10th; 2010).

D’Andia; B. (2004) Les musĂ©es parisiens; histoire; architecture et dĂ©cor; Paris: Action artistique de la ville de Paris.

Babelon; J.-P. (1986) ‘Le Louvre; demeure des rois; temple des arts’; in P. Nora (dir.) Les Lieux de mĂ©moires; tome II La nation; Paris: Gallimard.

Barcellini; C. (2010) Le MusĂ©e de l’ArmĂ©e et la fabrique de la Nation. Histoire militaire; histoire nationale et enjeux musĂ©ographiques; Paris: l’Harmattan.

Benhamou; F. (1998) ‘The contradictions of DĂ©sĂ©tatisation. Museums in France’; Privatization and Culture. Experiences in the Arts; Heritage and Cultural Industries in Europe; P. B. Boorsma (ed.); Amsterdam: Kulwer Academic Publishers; 95-110.

Benhamou; F. Moureau; N. (2006) ‘De la tour d’ivoire au musĂ©e ouvert sur la citĂ©: les Ă©volutions de la politique culturelle française’; Museum International; 232: 21-28.

Bordieu; P.; Darbel; P. (1966) L’Amour de l’art. Les musĂ©es d’art europĂ©ens et leur public; Paris: Éditions de Minuit.

Boylan; P. J. (1992) ‘Museum policy and politics in France; 1959-91’; Museums and Europe; Pearce S. (ed.); London: The Athlone Press; 87-115.

Bresc-Bautier; G. (1998-1999) ‘Le poĂšte et l’archĂ©ologue; le conservateur du Louvre sous la IIIe RĂ©publique’; MusĂ©es et collections publiques de France; dĂ©cembre/mars: 41-48.

Callu; A. (1994) La réunion des musées nationaux; 1870-1940; Paris: Librairie Droz.

Cantarel-Besson; Y. (1981) La naissance du musĂ©e du Louvre; La politique musĂ©ologique sous la RĂ©volution d’aprĂšs les archives des musĂ©es nationaux; Paris: RĂ©union des musĂ©es nationaux.

Costa; P.; Hanet; D. (1993) La formation des conservateurs de biens culturels en Europe; Paris: ENP; La documentation française.

Delvainquiùre; J.-C. (2007) ‘Country Profile; France’; Council of Europe/ERICarts: Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe. Online; available HTTP: <> (accessed 4 Mars 2010).

Desvallées; A. (1992) Vagues: une anthologie de la nouvelle muséologie; Lyon: Presses Universitaires de Lyon.

DMF/MusĂ©e du Louvre (2007) Les dĂ©pĂŽts de l’Etat au XIXe siĂšcle. Politiques patrimoniales et destins d’oeuvres - Actes du colloque du 8 dĂ©cembre 2007. Online; available HTTP: =1408474395181129&CURRENT_LLV_PROD%3C%3Efolder_id=140847439518112 9&FOLDER%3C%3EbrowsePath=1408474395181129&baseIndex=1 (accessed 5 november 2010).

Duncan; C.; Wallach A. (1980) ‘The Universal Survey Museum’; Art History; 3: 448-69; reprinted in B. M. Carbonell (ed.) Museum Studies (2004); Blackwell.

Forsdick; C.; Murphy; D. (2003) Francophone postcolonial studies: a critical introduction; London: Hodder Arnold.

Gaehtgens; T. (1984) Versailles. De la Résidence royale au musée historique. La galerie des Batailles dans le musée historique de Louis-Philippe; Paris: Albin Michel.

Gaugue; A. (1999) ‘MusĂ©es et colonisation en Afrique tropicale’; Cahiers d’études africaines; 39: 727-745.

Georgel; C. (2002) ‘Les conservateurs des musĂ©es des dĂ©partements au XIXe siĂšcle: qui sont-ils ? Une enquĂȘte en cours’; in P. Poirrier (dir.); Les formes de l’institutionnalisation; XIXe-XXe siĂšcles; Paris: La Documentation française; 243-252.

Granger; C. (2005) L’Empereur et les arts. La liste civile de NapolĂ©on III; Paris: École des Chartes.

Guiffrey; J.; Tuetey A. (1971) La commission du Muséum et la création du Musée du Louvre (1792-1793); Paris: F. de Nobele.

Hudson; K. (1987) Museums of Influence; Cambrigde: Cambridge University Press.

Larrouy; P. (1998) ‘Les premiĂšres annĂ©es du musĂ©e des AntiquitĂ©s nationales’; AntiquitĂ©s nationales; vol. 30: 197-206.

Lemoine; H (2008) Rapport Ă  Monsieur le ministre de la DĂ©fense et Madame la ministre de la Culture et de la Communication; « La maison de l’histoire de France. Online; available HTTP:; rapport_lemoine2008.pdf (accessed 1 February 2010).

L’Estoile; B. de (2007) Le goĂ»t des autres. De l’exposition coloniale aux arts premiers; Paris: Flammarion.

Long; V. (2007) MĂ©cĂšnes des deux mondes: les collectionneurs donateurs du Louvre et de l’Art Institute de Chicago; 1879-1940; Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes.

Marot; P (1969) ‘Les Origines d’un musĂ©e d’”AntiquitĂ©s nationales”. De la Protection du “Palais des Thermes” Ă  l’institution du “MusĂ©e de Cluny”’; MĂ©moires de la SociĂ©tĂ© nationale des Antiquaires de France; Paris; 9: IV.

McClellan; A. L. (1994) Inventing the Louvre: Art; Politics; and the Origins of the Modern Museum in Eighteenth Century Paris; Londres; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Michelet; J. (1979) Histoire de la Révolution française; (1s t edition; 1847) Paris: Robert Laffont.

MinistÚre de la culture et de la communication (2010) Musées; chiffres clés 2010; Online; available HTTP: (accessed 5 April 2010).

Moisset M.-T. (1977) ‘Les Origines du MusĂ©e des AntiquitĂ©s nationales’; AntiquitĂ©s nationales; 9: 92-99.

Ory; P. (1989) L’Aventure culturelle française; 1945-1989; Paris: Flammarion.

Oulebsir; N. (2004) Les usages du patrimoine. Monuments; musĂ©es et politique coloniale en AlgĂ©rie (1830-1930); Paris: Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme.

Pommier; É. (1986) ‘La naissance des musĂ©es de province’; in P. Nora. (ed.) Les Lieux de MĂ©moire; tome II: La Nation; 2; Paris; 451-495.

—— Les musĂ©es en Europe Ă  la veille de l’ouverture du Louvre. Acts of the colloquium organized by the musĂ©e du Louvre the 3;4 and 5th June; 1993; E. Pommier (ed.); Paris: Klincksieck.

Poulard; F. (2007) ‘Les ÉcomusĂ©es. Participation des habitants et prises en comptes des publics’ Ethnologie française; 37.

Poulot; D. (2004) ‘Identity as Self-Discovery: The Ecomuseum in France’ Museum Culture. Histories; Discourses; Spectacles; D. J. Sherman and I. Rogoff (eds); Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press; 66-86.

—— (2001) Patrimoine et musĂ©es; l’institution de la culture; Paris: Hachette.

—— (1998-1999); « Les origines du conservateur »; MusĂ©es et collections publiques de France; dĂ©cembre/mars: 31-40.

—— (1992) MusĂ©e; nation; patrimoine; 1789-1815; Paris: Gallimard.

Price S. (2007) Paris Primitive. Jacque Chirac’s Museum on the Quai Branly; Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.

Ravenhill P.-L. (1996) ‘The Passive Object and the Tribal Paradigm: Colonial Museography in French West Africa’; M. L. Arnoldi; C. M. Geary (ed.) AfricanMaterial Culture; Indiana: Indiana University Press; 265-282.

Sallois; J. (2005) Les Musées de France; Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Sherman; D. (1989) Worthy Monuments: Art Museums and the Politics of Culture in Nineteenth Century France; Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Taffin; D. (2000) Du musée colonial au musée des cultures du monde; Paris: Maisonneuve & Larose.

Vergo; P. (1989) The New Museology; London: Reaktion Books.

Viatte; G. (2002) Le Palais des colonies. Histoire du musĂ©e des arts d’Afrique et d’OcĂ©anie; (ed.); Paris: RĂ©union des musĂ©es nationaux.

Westrate J.-L. (1961) European Military Museums. A Survey of their Philosophy; Facilities; Programs; and Management; Washington: Smithsonian Institution.

Wright; G. (1996) ‘Naional Culture under Colonial Auspices: The École Française d’ExtrĂȘme-Orient’; The Formation of National Collections of Art and Archaeology; G. Wright (ed.) Hanover and London: University Press of New England; 127-142.


Direction des musées de France: Réunion des musées nationaux:

Institut de France: http://www.actualites.institut-defrance. fr/actualites_l_actualite_des_musees_et_des_monuments.html?1&arbo=30&

Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010. Conference proceedings from EuNaMus; European National Museums: Identity Politics; the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen; Bologna 28-30 April 2011. EuNaMus Report No. 1

Felicity Bodenstein
National Museums in France
Note: the following are taken directly from CrossRef
No citations available at the moment

Responsible for this page: Peter Berkesand
Last updated: 2017-02-21