Posts Tagged ‘Musée d’Histoire de Marseille’

Marseille is the oldest town in France, so when you walk along by the Vieux Port, you are following in the footsteps of Greek fishermen, shopkeepers, sailors and traders who established their colony in 600 BC.  They, and the Romans who arrived later, have left traces that emerge so often when new building takes place.

Take for instance the shopping mall at the Bourse, in the centre of town.

Greek and Roman remains in the middle of France’s second city

Excavations for the building in 1967 revealed the foundations of the original Greek port,  burial sites, remains of warehouses…all of which can now be seen in a spacious garden beside the shops.

The Musée d’ Histoire de Marseille was established alongside during this time, but was renovated and updated in time for the 2013 Year of Culture.  It is now one of Europe’s largest history museums and really worth a visit.

In fact there is almost too much to take in, as it walks us through 26 centuries of urban development.

Discovered during the building of the Bourse shopping centre, this 2nd century boat sank in 3m of water.

Highlights include the remains of the biggest ancient boat on show in the world.  It would have carried 100 tonnes of merchandise.

There are lots of statues, tableware, jewellery, household items, mainly from Roman times, before we get to the section on Marseille in the Middle Ages.  Different stages of development are illustrated by large models of the town and port.

Unlike some local museums, this one has tried hard to engage younger visitors with an interactive game or info-point for kids at the beginning of each section – bravo!  Explanatory panels are in English too.

On we go, through the Revolution and a section devoted to the rapidly industrialising Marseille: posters and paintings show the importance of the port, the soap industry, metallurgy and chemicals. 

There is so much to discover in this museum which couldn’t be more central.  After visiting, you simply go through the connecting corridor back into the Bourse shopping centre which continues the commercial activities started by the Greeks 2,600 years ago.


We were very surprised how few other visitors there were in the museum.  Maybe ten at the time of our visit. So my friend who is very active in various local associations asked if she could organise a group visit through the museum.  No was the answer – they only have guides for school parties.  Were there any reproductions of the posters for sale?   Was there a catalogue?  No and no again.

Surely some marketing focus could be brought to bear here; and I’m thinking of the numerous visitors coming in on cruise ships who are in town for a short space of time.  Most will want to stroll round town, but on very windy days like today, or when it’s hot or wet, it would make an ideal place to explore.

The ‘Journal de visite’ which is given at the beginning is an excellent 24pp news-sheet, in French.  English version here and good to skim before visiting: journal_musee_dhistoire-anglais

The museum is open daily exc. Monday, 10:00-18:00hrs. If you haven’t, do visit!







Read Full Post »

There have been so many MP2013-related events this year across the region that one does have to wonder what next year will be like? Will the momentum continue?  And how successful has the Year of Culture been?

Some stats are emerging, and some details of programmes for 2014.

Apparently museum entries are standing at 530,000 this year in contrast with 220,000 last year. This information from the Marseille town website does not include details of parameters for these statistics – I’m assuming it is for the first three quarters of each year?  I do find this year’s figure surprisingly low considering that both the Musée des Beaux Arts and the  Musée d’Histoire de Marseille were closed last year and neither the gallery J1 nor MUCEM existed.  I guess that many visitors to MUCEM and J1 don’t pay to go into the special exhibitions and wouldn’t be recorded, plus many events have been free.  It will be interesting to see what the final figures are.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille.

Musée des Beaux Arts, Marseille. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyway the recent press conference also introduced part of the programme for next year. After the big expo ‘Le Grand Atelier du Midi’, the Musée des Beaux Arts will re-open on 31st January to show its rehung permanent collection.  Then the following month, the Vieille Charité will host ‘Visage: Picasso, Magritte, Warhol…’ from 21st February.  Details on the statistics and the 2014 programme are here: http://www.marseille.fr/sitevdm/jsp/site/Portal.jsp?document_id=19428&portlet_id=8

The budget for all of these events must have been enormous, especially as many were free.  Some of the money came from central government but it must have added a lot to the local burden of debt.  The town of Aix for instance is in the red to the tune of 123,758,000€ which is 852€ per head of population.  This article from La Provence makes sobering reading. http://www.laprovence.com/article/actualites/2564534/la-region-paca-face-au-poids-de-la-dette.html

Read Full Post »