Faced with “the growing involvement of civil society in heritage issues,” Roselyne Bachelot-Narquin, Minister of Culture, said on 1 February, on the occasion of a symposium on citizen participation in heritage policies organized by the Ministry of Culture at the Ministry of Quai Branly – Jacques-Chirac, the avenues and proposals for a closer articulation between public authorities and heritage actors. The Minister also presented the focus of the Ministry’s heritage policy in various areas: monuments and buildings, museums and archives.

Dear Emmanuel Kasarhérou, President of the Quai Branly–Jacques Chirac Museum,

Dear Jean-François Hebert, Director General of Heritage and Architecture,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

It is a great pleasure to speak to you today at this symposium on Citizen participation in heritage policies.

We must thank you, dear Emmanuel Kasarhérou, for your welcome, which once again illustrates the vocation of the Quai-Branly Museum: that of also being a place of debates and meetings on culture in all its forms.

I would also like, of course, to thank and warmly congratulate all the teams of the Directorate-General for Heritage and Architecture who, under the authority of Jean-François Hebert, designed and organized these two days of colloquium. I would like to greet in particular Pascal Mignerey and all the DIRI teams.

Ladies and gentlemen, moments of collective reflection such as this one are not a “soul supplement”.

They are not a more or less recreational break to breathe before the “serious stuff” resumes. On the contrary, for me, they are at the heart of the mission of a Directorate-General such as yours, which must – as public institutions and drac institutions become more autonomous in their action – fully assume its role as strategist. And this is only possible, of course, by acquiring powerful analytical tools.

This is the meaning of the creation, within DGPA, of the Delegation for Inspection, Research and Innovation (DIRI), whose purpose, under the authority of the Director-General for Heritage, is to provide lighting elements enabling our heritage and architecture policy to better respond to the fantastic economic, technological and social developments we are witnessing today: ecology, digital revolution, defending our universalist model.

I will talk about this issue of citizen participation later. But before I do, a few weeks before the end of this mandate, I would like to take the opportunity afforded me this morning to have gathered all of you to take stock of the actions taken in recent years in the field of heritage.

I say to you bluntly, our collective modesty should suffer from it: we can be proud of what we have accomplished.

The health crisis we have been facing for two years now could have led the State to turn away from heritage issues in favour of other priorities, considered more urgent.

The opposite has happened. As part of the recovery plan, the assets as a whole benefited from an exceptional investment of €614m. At the same time, ordinary budget appropriations have increased substantially.

These are, dear Emmanuel Etienne, hundreds of projects that could be launched or relaunched, everywhere in the territory. The first results of this policy are already visible. I can check it every week when I travel. For example, last Friday I was able to admire the progress of the restoration of the extraordinary rotunda of Saint Benigne in Dijon, which dates from the early years of the 11the century.

It is largely thanks to the recovery plan, too, that we will be able to celebrate, in a few months, the renaissance of the royal castle of Villers-Cotterêts. The abandonment of this major monument had represented one of the great heritage scandals of the XXe century. It will now host, according to the will of the President of the Republic, the Cité internationale de la langue française.

And I cannot speak of a shipyard without mentioning the most important of them, that of Notre-Dame de Paris, entrusted to the public establishment chaired by General Georgelin. As you know, we have now entered the restoration phase itself. The calendar is respected, and the reopening of the monument to the public and worship will be effective in 2024.

The trauma caused by the fire was the occasion of an awareness on the vulnerability of our 89 cathedrals of metropolis and overseas. We have also implemented a national plan to secure these buildings.

We must also say a word about the excellence of our preventive archaeology model. Our archaeologists do not only dig, they find! For example, a district of ancient Vienna, on the other side of the Rhone in Sainte-Colombe, or an important Gallo-Roman necropolis in the Robine district in Narbonne, or a Gallic aristocratic residence in Trémuson, in the Côtes-d'Armor.

All of these actions are supported by a regulatory framework that continues to adapt and strengthen where necessary. I am thinking, for example, of the creation of the “national domains” regime, which provides additional protection for the state’s heritage. Eleven national domains have already been created by decree in the Council of State and others are to come.

Our national museums have also shown, as soon as they reopened, a vitality that had no equivalent abroad, that we owe to the dynamism of their teams, but also to the exceptional support of the State. It is not the Museum Service of France, dear Anne-Solène Rolland, that will deny me.

Of course, beyond emergency aid, which was essential, we must reflect on the economic models of our heritage institutions. Because the return to the ex ante status quo is not the most likely hypothesis. We are working on that, with a view to decisions that will be made, no doubt, after the presidential election.

The last few years have also been marked by major advances in the field of memory. It is not a question, ladies and gentlemen, of rewriting history, as we sometimes hear:

but simply to write it as completely and as faithfully as possible. A country always grows to look its past in the face, without complacency: neither for the one nor for the other.

It is in this spirit that a major renewal of museum cooperation with Africa has begun. Following the speech delivered in Ouagadougou on November 28, 2017, dear Emmanuel Kasarhérou, we have intensified research on the origins of African collections from the colonial context. This work culminated on December 24, 2020, in the promulgation of the first law of restitution of cultural property for the benefit of Benin and Senegal. In November 2021, 26 objects from the Abomey treasure were returned to Benin.

At the ceremony that marked this restitution, the President of the Republic wished that we could move towards a framework law that would contain «a doctrine and precise rules of restitubility». Jean-Luc Martinez is in charge of the reflection on the subject. It is essential, of course, that the derogations from the principle of inalienability, to which I am very attached, be as limited and as clear as possible.

In another area, that of anti-Semitic dispossession, a historic law is about to be passed. For the first time, we will be releasing works of art from public collections on the grounds that they were stolen from Jewish families during the Nazi period. I would like to commend the unanimous vote on our bill in the National Assembly last week. It is the result of a very long research work, conducted by the experts of our museums, in close connection with the mission, which we created in 2018, of research and restitution of looted cultural property between 1933 and 1945.

The last axis of this work on memory that has mobilized you so much: access to archives. Under the leadership of the President of the Republic, thanks to the remarkable commitment of the interdepartmental service at the archives of France, dear Françoise Banat-Berger, this access to archives has increased considerably in recent years. Very important funds, relating both to the Algerian war and to Rwanda, not to mention the trial of Klaus Barbie, were opened. In practical terms, the consultation of archives, both on site and online, was also greatly facilitated. We were able to benefit from all the collaborative indexing operations, one of the forms of citizen participation in heritage policies.

Another priority of my action, dear Aurélie Cousi, is to support the profound transformations taking place in the architecture sector, at the crossroads of all the major challenges of our time: ecology, demand for a better quality of life, etc.

I am delighted that architecture education has been able to carry out major reforms. Our schools are better anchored in the life of society, their students are better received, better prepared for the new demands of their future professions.

In general, the Ministry of Culture has firmly positioned itself as a leader in architectural quality policy. I am thinking in particular of our participation in the "Action cœur de ville" and "Petites Villes de Demain" programmes for the revitalization by the architecture of medium-sized city centres.

These measures are the manifestations of a paradigm shift, which must be encouraged: that of an approach to heritage and architecture that is integrated into an overall urban vision, in connection with an economic and tourism strategy.

In the same vein, the report by Pierre-René LEMAS ( Architectural and use quality of social housing ” foreshadowed the October 2021 launch of the call for expressions of interest “ Committed to the quality of tomorrow’s housing ». This call for expressions of interest, carried out by the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry responsible for housing, is largely open to professionals in architecture, planning and urban planning. The winners will be announced in March 2022.

French heritage policy does not stop at national borders. We are thus conducting many projects at European and global level. In 2017, France played a decisive role in the creation of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Zones (ALIPH). Yesterday we hosted the second donor conference to renew the commitments made five years ago. Over the past five years, more than 150 projects have been deployed to protect heritage in threatened sites.

I also signed, in 2021, the 10-year extension of the intergovernmental agreement with Abu Dhabi on the Louvre Abu Dhabi. This is a major success, which confirms the relevance of the bet that France made in 2007. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a unique museum in the world, one of the best ambassadors of our universalist conception of culture.

France has also strengthened its involvement in European heritage policy. The programme of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union thus includes a particularly substantial heritage component.

During the semester, no less than four seminars will be organized: on the structuring of European labels and cultural routes, as well as on the place and role of museums in Europe.

I now come to the theme of participation that brings you together today, which is also a good way to conclude my remarks.

Throughout the Great National Debate, held in 2019, we felt how high the expectations were for participation. This is particularly the case with heritage. Participatory events such as the European Heritage Days, the Night of Museums, the Rendez-vous aux jardins, or the National Archaeology Days are becoming increasingly popular. As for the «Heritage Lottery» operation, launched in 2018 with Stéphane Bern, its success with the general public is indisputable. We decided to extend it for another four years.

In general, we see, alongside the public authorities, the development of new actors – associations, foundations, but also companies – who claim the ambition to protect and enhance heritage, generally at the local level. We also see an increase in whistleblowers and other redressers of harm, who have made a specialty to denounce the attacks, real or supposed, brought to this same patrimony... The workshops you organized on January 18 provided a very comprehensive overview of these different modes of public participation.

I want to tell you today without any ambiguity: this growing involvement of civil society on heritage issues is excellent news.

It raises, of course, the question of the articulation between «amateurs» and professionals, in a field where scientific expertise, mastery of techniques, play such a central role. In preparation for this symposium, you have done a great deal of work on this point and have identified many avenues for progress towards a better “integration” of civil society. I will read it with interest.

But fundamentally, heritage is everyone’s business:

- not only in the sense that this word, “heritage”, means what the past has left us most precious, entrusting to us the task of transmitting it, in our turn, to future generations.

- but still in the sense – more practical – where, to protect heritage, we need everyone.

The State plays a central role in this matter, as I have already indicated. But we are well aware that the local authorities, who own the majority of the monuments protected under the title of historical monuments, and, to a different extent, perhaps, the private owners, also have a very important responsibility.

In the years to come, the financial and human investments we will have to make will be colossal. Beyond the “great” sites and monuments, for which the needs are immense – whether we think of the Clairvaux Abbey for example, or the Louvre – I am thinking of the thousands of small churches, remarkable private properties, that are threatened. To save them, we will have to invent for these places new economic models, and new uses. The ordinary budget of the State and local authorities will not suffice.

We will certainly have to be imaginative, by involving more and more stakeholders in heritage conservation, which, once again, is everyone’s business!

Ladies and gentlemen, the paradox is perhaps only apparent: it is to the men of the French Revolution that we owe the foundations of our heritage policy. At first tempted by the clean slate, by the eradication of all that recalled a past with which they wanted to break, they quickly understood the need to preserve the common heritage. It is «the barbarians and the slaves» who «hate the sciences and destroy the monuments of the arts»: «free men», they «love and preserve them», said the abbot Grégoire.

It is by maintaining the bonds with what has built us that we become capable of projecting ourselves into the future, as free men. This lesson is perhaps even more true today than it was yesterday.

Thank you.