French Culture Minister Nixes Sarkozy’s Controversial Plan for a National History Museum in Paris

French Culture Minister Nixes Sarkozy’s Controversial Plan for a National History Museum in Paris
Maison de l’Histoire de France was to be built alongside the National Archives in Paris (pictured here)

In 2010, France's now-former President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his intention to build a national French history museum, the Maison de l’Histoire de France, alongside the National Archives in Paris’s Marais neighborhood. Controversy quickly ensued, with many historians voicing concerns that the museum would relate a one-sided, politically-charged version of French history. Now French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti, who joined the government after François Hollande’s election as President in May, has just announced that the project has been abandoned, since it was “extremely expensive and perhaps somewhat ideologically controversial.”

The museum was to open in 2016 and was expected to cost €80 million ($100 million), of which, according to Le Monde, €7 million ($8.8 million) has already been spent. On a radio program on France Inter last Friday, Filippetti laid out the reasons for her rejection of the idea in answer to a caller’s question about the museum's future. “I don’t think there is one way of relating history,” she said, calling the notion of expressing all of French history inside a stately building in the Marais neighborhood “a bit dated as a museological vision.” Instead, Filippetti said that the government will link nine existing historical museums representing various periods of France’s past via a website and that traveling exhibitions on the theme of “how to write history” will be organized.

One important question remains unanswered. Sarkozy moved a large portion of the National Archives to a location in suburban Paris in order to make room for the proposed museum in the historic Hôtel de Soubise — a decision that was bitterly contested by Archives employees, who went on strike and occupied the building, but did not prevail. Filippetti has not yet said whether the archives will be allowed to move back into the vacated space.