The Verdun Memorial

Chapeau

Created in 1967, the Verdun Memorial is a key historical and remembrance site set in the heart of the battlefield.

After a complete overhaul and extension, the Memorial reopened on 21 February, the anniversary of the first day of the battle of Verdun.

Mémorial de Verdun. © Jean-Marie Mangeot
Texte

It is on the very site of the fighting, in a redesigned and modernised building, that French and foreign visitors can take an entirely new Battle of Verdun museum tour. The Memorial opens out onto the battlefield and presents both the French and German points of view of the battle through a new set design. It also wants to convey a shared memory reflecting Franco-German reconciliation. Three years of research and collaboration have resulted in richer collections and the birth of this permanent exhibition that pays tribute to the soldiers who are at the core of the memorial regardless of their nationality. The visit unfolds over three levels along a journey of discovery marked by key historical milestones, a journey that is at once educational but that also calls on the senses and emotions. The permanent exhibition, translated into German and English, is organised into two sequences: the ground floor is dedicated to the fighting locations and the first floor to the battle environment.

From the start of the journey, visitors are invited to situate this journey in time, space and history while being immersed in the heart of the battlefield. The aim is the recreate the combat experience of the frontline soldiers. Objects, archival footage, artistic expressions by the soldiers and a extraordinary 100 m2 audiovisual show depicts the violence of the battle with the convulsions of a land beset by shell fire. As a counterpoint, soldiers' everyday objects can be discovered in rough-sawn wooden display cases, giving visitors another view of the battle. Further on, the logistics of this gigantic confrontation are explained in a representation of the Voie sacrée (the Sacred Way).

On the second level, the visitor comes into the environment and context of the battle. What is revealed in particular is the role of aviation in this first air battle ever, the role of army headquarters or the heroic role of the armies' health services as well as those behind the French and German front lines and the civilians. Through the look in the eyes of soldiers on leave, everyone can imagine what daily life was like in France and Germany. The permanent exhibition then ends in the original hall, dedicated to the history of the Memorial. The top floor, bathed in light, gives out onto the surrounding countryside. The battlefield is best seen and taken in by means of the multimedia terminals. The tour then continues in the temporary exhibition area.

The new architecture has given the Memorial an additional surface area of 1,900 m2. Two side wings of 400 m2 each have been added to the original building. One is to house the memorial's reserves that are not currently exposed, the other has been incorporated into the permanent exhibition and is dedicated to the artillery and the Voie Sacrée (Sacred Way). A lobby has also been built on the lower level of the Memorial, included in part in the redesigned embankment that overlooks the access road. The ticket office, gift shop and tourist reception area, dedicated to remembrance tourism in the department, are located in this new zone. Finally, the creation of an additional floor covering the building with a glass roof, offers the public access to two side terraces and hosts a 200 m2 temporary exhibition room, educational room, documentation centre and relaxation area.

The project has been mainly financed by public funds - the State (Ministry of Defence), the Lorraine region and the La Meuse department. The project also called on patronage.


Auteur
Thierry Hubscher - Director of the Verdun Memorial

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