Mr Minister, Mr Deputy Mayor, Dear Jean-François COPÉ,Ladies and Gentlemen,Dear Friends,

You probably remember a very striking film that, last year,
suggested the horrors of the Great War without showing us, in
stopping just at the threshold of horror. Michael HANEKE’s White Ribbon ended
on the eve of the World Premiere on the German side. And this film
produced a rather terrifying effect: it does not make us leave the brutality of the former
that to enter into another violence, even greater, that,
of the 20th century. This century was marked by the
World War I is sort of the first act.
Since the disappearance two years ago of the last hairy Frenchman, Lazare PONTICELLI,
at the age of 110, we no longer hold the hand of this memory. The thread of the
direct memory is broken and we now have exclusively, to try
to understand and grasp the event, the work of historians, paintings of
artists and writers – we have The Fire of Henri BARBUSSE, To the West nothing of
new from Erich Maria NOTE, the beginning of travel at the end of the night of
CELINE. We have films like The Great Illusion by RENOIR or The
Paths of glory of Stanley KUBRICK. All arts, including bands
so evocative of a Jacques TARDI, come to the service of the
memory and history.

Yet perhaps nothing allows us to recapture the past as the presence
objects that have declined the forms and the daily content, this «presence»
which a historian like the German Hans Ulrich GUMBRECHT recently came to
“praise” us and remind us of the irreplaceable value, the wealth
inalienable. It is somewhat the same postulate that seems to have presided over the conception
of this Great Museum of the Great War, whose
responsibility and honour to lay the foundation stone for an inauguration that
will take place on the symbolic date of November 11, 2011.

Because this museum will give us to see a considerable number of everyday objects, of
front and back, notably from Jean-Pierre’s exceptional collection
VERNEY. Uniforms and costumes, military equipment, but also newspapers,
photographs, posters, drawings and paintings, postcards, letters and poems…:
no less than 50,000 objects and documents will make present for us some
thing of the Great War, through “inanimate objects” which are obviously
charged with the soul of the past.

But of course, the presence itself is built. And the scenography, the
selection and interpretation of the objects that will be exhibited in this
Museum will meet this requirement of “putting in the presence” of a past
which must not pass because it constitutes us. I am convinced that the
very original sound and olfactory atmospheres of
this period that will be proposed by this museum, just like the architecture
almost buried that Christophe Lab designed – a bit like a
trench – obey the concern to find ways to make this
memory in the most concrete and tangible way of the event, which
helps her most intimate understanding, giving back to her all that
constitutes its thickness, its grain, its very flesh.

Essential milestone of the large network that will be built around the future House
the history of France desired by the President of the Republic and with
which will resonate very deeply, this museum could not find
better anchored than here, in MEAUX, in this country marked by both
great battles of the Marne, in a country that not only carries the

memory, but also the scars of this tragic history.
He could not have been born without the intuition and commitment of his mayor, our
Jean-François COPÉ, who, the first, knew how to take the
measurement of the issue and the echo met by this story with the
French, and convince all its partners of the opportunity and the
feasibility of this project: the State, but also all the communities
and of course the private patrons whom I thank

This ceremony of laying the foundation stone takes, I believe, a sense all
because of the very nature of this museum. Because after so many
destruction caused by the Great War, building is obviously a
symbolic act very strong. We could be tempted by forgetting, by the
repression, and consider that the atrocities whose twentieth century was only
This history, which is already almost a hundred years old, is too prodigious.
we understood that the present and the future could not be built
that by being firmly anchored to a full awareness of the past, if
painful, and that the memory of wars is a condition
indispensable to our peaceful and harmonious identity.

Building this museum also means sowing for the future, especially among the most
young people, for whom this past tends to lose readability and become
increasingly virtual, with the proliferation of images and the acceleration of
flow of information. That is why I am pleased that the design of the
From the outset, the museum has included a strong educational dimension, in particular
through the use of new technologies. These, I am convinced,
can help us break down inhibitions or preventations that, too
often keep young people at the door of these mediators of proximity
what are our museums.

Sowing for the future also means, of course, enhancing cultural and
of Île-de-France, at the time of the elaboration of the
Grand Pari(s). By creating this reference museum for the knowledge of the
Great War, we fully integrate the city of Meaux and its
the logic of the major regional centres, both at national level,
and, of course, international.

I would therefore like to thank all the public and private actors who have
made possible this link between our past, our present, and our
future. I am convinced that the public will find in this "place of
memory», in the presence of these direct and silent witnesses, but more
the Great War, a matter of remembrance, and
the impetus for a deep and collected understanding of
the event.

Thank you.