The MRN: a museum for tomorrow
A completely redesigned Musée de la Résistance Nationale (MRN) is preparing to open at Champigny-sur-Marne, with exhibition spaces housed in a new building and a research centre on the historical site. An ambitious project offering a fresh insight into the Resistance.
“I soon realised that the only word I had in my head was ‘freedom’”: so said Paul Éluard of his poem Liberté. Freedom was the word of the moment, after the victory over absolute horror. It was the word of a new era which the Resistance had thought long and hard about, even before its underground struggle was over. The public will soon be able to see one of the few manuscripts of this poem, in the new permanent exhibition at the Musée de la Résistance Nationale (MRN), along with many other unique pieces in the collection in Champigny-sur-Marne.
It is through these works, which tell so many life stories, that the MRN has, since 1965, passed on the history and memory of the French Resistance. Every day, its trustees seek to fulfil the four criteria that form the basis of the museum’s future work: to be a museum with one of the finest collections on the history of the Resistance, a space for cultural outreach centred on the general public, an actor in the educational community and a place of research. After 20 years of gathering tangible traces of the Resistance, the MRN opened at the Parc Vercors site in Champigny-sur-Marne, which in 2016 was named after Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, the former chair of its scientific committee.
Today, the museum has been given a new lease of life with the loan of the Aimé Césaire building by the Val-de-Marne departmental authorities. Set on the banks of the Marne, near the town centre and the future metro station of Champigny-Centre on the Grand Paris Express network, the new site will make the museum more accessible by public transport. With 1 000 sqm of exhibition space on three levels and a 120-seat auditorium, it will offer better facilities to the public. As of early 2020, then, the MRN will occupy two sites: its historical site will become a conservation centre and a centre for researchers, as well as being open to the organisations that form the museum’s network. The new Aimé Césaire building will house the permanent and temporary exhibitions, and also those specifically for schools. With a design that relies on the power of the works in the collection and the wealth of life stories they contain, the museum’s new permanent exhibition will bring to the fore all aspects and issues of importance in the history of the Resistance.
A rich cultural programme of temporary exhibitions, debates and outreach will add to the content on offer to visitors and individuals keen to gain a better understanding of modern-day issues in the light of that history. A science programme will also be offered, to make advances in research more accessible and to train teachers. The collections will be better conserved in the current site’s redesigned layout, and the new space made available will mean that a larger scale family donation campaign will be possible.
Combined with the strength of its national network and its 18 museums across France, run by a variety of different partners – including Champigny-sur-Marne town council and Val-de-Marne departmental authority, the armed forces, education and culture ministries, the Île-de-France regional authority, the departmental authorities of Seine-Saint-Denis and Hauts-de-Seine, the Paris-Est-Marne et Bois territorial administration, Paris city council and many other local councils, foundations, works councils and patrons – this new incarnation of the MRN forms the basis for a project aimed at the successful transmission and teaching of a history which Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac described as “a collection of freedoms in a school of freedom”.
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