With this exhibition, the Musée de l’Armée looks back on 100 years of acquisitions. Through the abundant, often unknown and at times very unexpected, history of the expansion of the Museum’s collections, it is predominantly the story of the bond between the Nation and its army, which is rooted in the history and memory of conflicts.
The objects on display – spectacular and different – demonstrate and remind us of the special features of the Musée de l’Armée and its collections.
Visitors will discover the origins of the Museum, which was established in 1905 as a result of the merger between the Musée d’Artillerie, the Musée Historique de l’Armée and the heritage collections of the Hôtel des Invalides.
The constant expansion of the Museum’s collections is highlighted by the diversity of acquisition methods – donations, transfers, purchases, bequests, acceptance in lieu, pre-emptions, restitutions, and deposits. The Musée de l’Armée, which was looted in 1815 and partially evacuated in 1870, remained open during the First World War and its collections were expanded upon with many objects connected to the conflict. In 1921 the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles resulted in a large influx of objects from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 and from the Great War. At the end of the Second World War, thanks to several recovery missions carried out in Germany, the Museum recovered the works which had been confiscated by the German occupier, and in 1949 it was appointed to house the Pétain sequestration. The impact this rich history had on the building up of the Museum’s collections is mentioned in the exhibition.
As a counterpoint, the rest of the exhibition focuses on the loss of objects and artworks. Indeed, as with the lootings that took place in 1815 and 1940, the Musée de l’Armée suffered damages, the causes of which were often beyond its control: thefts, destruction, or accidents. Restitutions constitute a special case.
Finally, the exhibition ends on the Museum’s ambition to become a place of cohesion, that welcomes questions from our contemporaries while providing them with keys to understanding the state of the world and its evolution, within a societal context in which armed conflicts have become part of everyday life. The Museum’s policy to constantly expand upon the collections reflects these changes, an important part of which is the sensitivity of the curators and the public.
A range of cultural activities for adults, young audiences and schools will be scheduled around the exhibition.
- François Lagrange, Head of the Research, Development and Dissemination Department, Musée de l’Armée
- Sylvie Leluc, Head of the Collections and Heritage Department, Musée de l’Armée
- Christophe Pommier, Deputy Head of the Artillery Department, Musée de l’Armée
- Le Journal des Arts