The network of museums in France
The network of 1,216 museums in France (November 2022 figure) has gradually been formed since the end of the eighteenth century.
Nineteenth century: the birth of museums
The first museums appeared at the end of the eighteenth century, in Paris and in most of the major cities of France (Bordeaux, Caen, Lille, Rennes, Rouen, Toulouse...). They have an educational vocation. Their collections are made up of revolutionary seizures or state depots. During the first half of the nineteenth century, most significant cities opened a museum, usually at the initiative of municipalities, and often thanks to the generosity of donors. This movement intensified in the second half of the century. Art-friendly societies then play an important role in organizing exhibitions and enriching collections. The State deposit policy is also very important.
20th century: three types of institutions
Until 1945, museums in the regions were under the ill-defined control of an Inspection of Provincial Museums. The thirty state-owned museums are managed by the Ministry of National Education in a Directorate-General for Fine Arts.
Upon liberation, the order of 13 July of the provisional government of the French Republic classified museums into three types of institutions:
- national museums (about 30);
- classified museums (a dozen major regional museums);
- controlled museums.
In 1991, the decree of 5 August redefined and extended the scope of intervention of the Direction des musées de France (DMF), which was then entrusted with «proposing and implementing the State’s policy on museum heritage» and “to organize the cooperation of the various public authorities in this field”.
The reorganization of the DMF, now the Service des musées de France (SMF), between 1990 and 1994, put an end to the distinction between classified and controlled museums and thus allowed a general competence on all museums.
The French Museums Act: a decentralizing text
The 2002 Museum Act completed this movement for the emancipation of communities. This law is above all a decentralizing text, which aims to respect the freedom of organization and the freedom of choice of legal persons owners of museum collections. It clarifies for the first time the “rule of the game” applicable to relations between the State and local authorities and limits, for the future, the technical control of the State to the only museums that their owners have wished to submit to the statute provided by law.
Advisers for museums, present in each Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC), are responsible for implementing the national policy on museums: examination of applications for the designation of museums of France, files for withdrawal of the designation, renovation or museum construction projects etc.
Formation d'un réseau de musées de France
Il s’est ainsi formé un réseau de musées de France, constitué des musées nationaux, musées placés pour la plupart sous la tutelle administrative du Service des Musées de France et du ministère de la culture, et des musées de collectivités ou de personnes morales.
Musées de collectivités
Les musées de collectivités territoriales sont, et de loin, les plus nombreux puisqu'ils représentent à eux seuls 82% des musées de France.
Created, for the first, from the end of the eighteenth century, they are today more than a thousand. Their collections are estimated at nearly 41 million objects, the variety of which is amazing. The scientific interest of these collections is extremely important, both because of the diversity of their origins and because of the originality or rarity of certain objects themselves. Not a single museum in France, even among the most modest, that does not keep its «Mona Lisa»: Ephebe d'Agde, Eve d'Autun... these masterpieces are so numerous that it is impossible to enumerate them.
Museums of international stature
Many of these museums have an international reputation, especially when they bear witness to a moment of history (the Compagnie des Indes museum in Lorient, the Great War in Meaux, the Caen memorial, a museum for peace, etc.). The very nature of the collections can justify this international aura. Thus the Auch Museum is known internationally for its collection of feathers of pre-Columbian origin, that of Boulogne-sur-Mer for its masks Alutiiq of Alaska…
Of monographic museums
Museums dedicated to personalities are numerous, whether they are people of letters, very present (Balzac museums in Paris, Barbey d'Aurevilly in Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, Corneille and Flaubert in Rouen, Dumas père in Villers-Cotterets, Victor Hugo in Paris and Villequier, La Fontaine in Château-Thierry, Mallarmé in Vulaines-sur-Seine, Rimbaud in Charleville-Mézières, Romain Rolland in Clamecy, Edmond Rostand in Cambo-les-Bains, Rousseau in Montmorency, George Sand in Nohant…), musicians (Saint-Saëns in Dieppe, Berlioz in La Côte-Saint-André), artists (Eugène Boudin in Honfleur, Camille Claudel in Nogent-sur-Seine, Ingres in Montauban, Lalique in Wingen-sur-Moder, Matisse in Cateau-Cambrésis and Nice, Toulouse-Lautrec in Albi, etc.), political figures (Jaurès in Castres, Louis-Philippe in Eu...) or scientists (Braille museums in Coupvray, Champollion in Figeac, etc.).
Actors for the territories
Whether internationally or nationally recognized, these institutions also play an important role in the community. Especially for those who testify to the history of a territory, often open to other horizons (Alsatian, Basque, Dauphinois, Aquitaine, Brittany, Normandy museums, etc.). This history can be linked to know-how (city of lace and fashion in Calais, museum of violin making in Mirecourt, museum of mother-of-pearl and tableware in Méru, museum of Nantes vineyards, etc.).
Equipped with a public service, these institutions organize workshops, conferences, visits, concerts. The many temporary exhibitions are generally an opportunity to broaden the perspective of the museum’s collections. Scientifically remarkable, and sometimes extremely ambitious, these exhibitions have an impact that often transcends the boundaries of the community.
In several regions (Centre-Val-de-Loire, Hauts-de-France, Normandy, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie), museums have chosen to gather virtually, in the form of a website, to make their actions and collections better known.
On the purely administrative level, we are now witnessing the development of inter-communal relations, which offers museums important means of development.
Restitution of the survey on museums in France (territorial museums), 2017 data
A cross-sectional survey was conducted in 2018 among the 1214 museums in France. The institutions were requested through an online questionnaire. Seven themes were selected: 1. General information; 2. Legal information; 3. Budgetary elements; 4. Human resources; 5. Equipment; 6. Collections and 7. Public. This information concerned the year 2017.
In the document below, you will find data on about 20 indicators for the 809 territorial museums responding.
La restitution des données relatives aux publics est disponible dans l’observatoire des publics des patrimoines «Patrimostat 2018».
Le réseau des musées nationaux compte 61 musées qui sont caractérisés par la détention, la conservation et la valorisation de collections nationales. Les collections nationales recouvrent les œuvres d’art, les biens culturels, scientifiques ou techniques appartenant à l’Etat.
S’ils représentent à peine plus de 10% des musées de France, musées associatifs et de fondations n’en sont pas moins des acteurs importants du paysage culturel de notre territoire. Là encore, leurs collections sont aussi riches que variées.
Les musées de France de statut associatifs sont au nombre d’environ 120. Certains sont les héritiers de prestigieuses sociétés savantes, tels les musées de l'académie du Val d'Isère à Moûtiers ou de la Société des antiquaires de Normandie à Caen.
Beaucoup sont :
- des musées de société (musées du protestantisme, de la Réforme à la laïcité à Ferrières, d'art et d'histoire du judaïsme à Paris, de la Franc-Maçonnerie à Paris, Calvin à Noyon) ;
- des musées de territoire (écomusées de la Bresse bourguignonne à Pierre-de-Bresse, de l’Avesnois à Fourmies-Trélon, musées Béarnais à Pau, du vieux Reims…) ;
- des musées techniques ou industriels (musées national de l'automobile - collection Schlumpf et EDF-Electropolis à Mulhouse).
Contrairement à une idée reçue, les musées associatifs ne sont pas tous des petites structures. Ainsi, les musées des arts décoratifs, à Paris, le musée Unterlinden, à Colmar, ou l’Historial de Péronne, sont des musées associatifs.
Foundation museums are quite rare in France: less than a dozen. However, here again, the themes are extremely varied, from the Arp Foundation to Clamart, to the Yves Saint-Laurent Museum in Paris, to the Coubertin Foundation in Saint-Rémy-les-Chevreuse, to the African and Asian art museums in Vichy, hunting and nature, or the Arab World Institute in Paris.
Sometimes confused with the Service des musées de France, which provides scientific and technical control over the 1,220 museums in France, the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais, carries out a public service mission to the thirty national museums placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture.
Donations and bequests to the national museums were not limited to works or objects of art. There could be, for example, real estate. However, the administration was not in a position to technically manage these assets, or to manage ticket sales. Thus, in 1895, it was decided to create a public institution to collect donations and bequests granted to national museums, to manage their box office revenues, to pool the means in favour of acquisitions: the Réunion des musées nationaux (RMN).
In the second half of the twentieth century, the NMR will develop important know-how, particularly in the field of the organization of exhibitions, the publishing of catalogues and the shooting of art objects. It remains, even today, the main European cultural operator for exhibition production). This competence has enabled him to ensure the programming of the Musée du Luxembourg, in Paris, on behalf of the Senate, since 2010.
While the number of museum shops and the demand for merchandise inspired by museum collections (postcards, casts...) is increasing, the Reunion of National Museums is transformed into a public industrial and commercial establishment (EPIC) in 1990.
In 2011, the Rmn merged with the public establishment of the Grand Palais and became the Réunion des musées nationaux - Grand Palais (RMN-GP).
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