A brief history of the collections

Although the MuCEM was inaugurated in Marseille in 2013, its origins actually date back to the 19th century. Today, it manages an original, composite collection, mainly made up of more than 250,000 objects, 350,000 photographs, 200,000 posters, prints and postcards, and 150,000 works, that it continues to enrich through an acquisitions policy that is open to Mediterranean subjects, from the Neolithic to contemporary art.

  • Photographie Album n°4 du fonds Soury, Menagerie, la jungle de Frank Henry

    The MuCEM before the MuCEM: a museum of “popular” France

    Formed over 130 years ago, the MuCEM’s collections are the direct heirs of the Ethnographic Museum at Trocadero Palace in Paris (1878-1936) and the two museums that succeeded it beginning in 1936, the Museum of Man and the National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (MNATP).

  • Mucem, Trocadéro

    1878-1936: Ethnographic Museum at the Trocadero

    The Ethnographic Museum at the Trocadero, the first Parisian ethnographic museum, was created in 1878. Beginning in 1884, a “France Room” was opened beside the Africa and Asia Rooms to present the museum’s French collections (home life, costumes, etc.). That room would be closed in 1928. During that time, close to 8,000 objects were added to the collections.

  • Mucem, Trocadéro

    1937-1971: National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions

    For the International Exposition of Art and Technology, the Palais de Chaillot was built to replace the old Palais du Trocadéro. At the initiative of Georges Henri Rivière, the National Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions opened its doors on 1 May 1937 with the aim of giving popular arts the same cultural and scientific importance as fine arts.

    At a time when France was in mid-transformation, teams of researchers combed the countryside to collect evidence of a disappearing rural world, based on two main subjects: social and cultural life (religion, rites and feast days, etc.) and material culture (agriculture, crafts, rural furniture, food, etc.).

  • Portrait de Georges Henri Rivière devant la vitrine musique de la galerie culturelle

    1972-2000: An ethnology museum in the Bois de Boulogne

    In 1972, the MNATP’s collections left the basement level of the Palais de Chaillot and were relocated to a building constructed by Jean Dubuisson in the Bois de Boulogne. At the same time, the acquisitions policy was opened up to new fields, including urban crafts and commerce. The museum also established collections that served as a reference in Europe for new domains like circus and carnival arts. In parallel, the museum’s collection of popular prints became one of the largest in France, with masterpieces of classical imagery from the 16th to the 18th century.

  • Mucem, Construction

    The MuCEM: A museum open to Europe and the Mediterranean

    Planned since the late 1990s, the relocation of the MNATP to Marseille and its conversion into the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) was confirmed by the Interministerial Committee for Land Use Planning in 2000. The museum’s acquisitions policy then launched its proactive orientation toward Europe and the Mediterranean.

  • Mucem, Campagnes collectes

    2000-2013: Collection and acquisition campaigns

    In the 1990s and 2000s, the acquisitions explore innovative subjects (rock, urban cultures, AIDS, industrial heritage, cuisine, etc.) on French soil and abroad.

    The opening of the geographic sphere reached a major turning point in 2005 with the deposit of the European collection from the Museum of Man (more than 30,000 pieces). Also in the early 2000s, an acquisitions policy firmly oriented toward North Africa and the Near East was put in place with the new museum programme.

  • Mucem, J4

    2013-present: Welcome to Marseille

    The MuCEM was inaugurated in Marseille in June 2013.

    The new acquisitions, which focus more on the Mediterranean Area, are now made with an eye to consistency with the subjects of the old collection from the MNATP. In this way, for example, the costumes of French regions enter into dialogue with pieces come from North Africa and Turkey, whilst chests from the Queyras Valley and Norman wardrobes mingle with Syrian chests and dressers. The collections’ opening up to Europe and the Mediterranean provides a forceful illustration of the comparative point of view adopted by the MuCEM.

    Explore the MuCEM’s collections with a click  

    You can view all the museum’s collections – 980,000 information sheets - here