Participatory collection

Call for donations

Press release—dated 5 June 2020
First appraisal of the participatory collection

On 20 April, the Mucem launched a major participatory operation devoted to collecting objects that testified to the lockdown period we were going through at the time.

As at the 31 May deadline date, the Mucem received 540 donation proposals from all over France.

While Marseille and the PACA region account for the highest volume of proposals, the rest of the French territory is nevertheless also represented, with a number received from Ile-de-France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est, Occitanie, and Brittany. The call also attracted offers from outside France (Spain, Belgium, the UAE, Egypt, Italy, the UK, as well as Mexico and China).

All age groups are represented among participants making an offer, ranging from a child’s costume of a superhero who combats the virus to an elderly person’s painting made during lockdown.

PPE objects, a predictable category, are indeed present, but by no means represent the majority of proposals, accounting for some 30 offers linked to this category.

Naturally, the required documentation for trips outdoors and home-made masks have been proposed, with some of the latter the subject of particular aesthetic concern, such as a paper mask folded in the manner of origami, and another that is coordinated to jeans and gloves. Others aim to play down the drama, such as masks made by a mother for her children, in the style of cowboy and soldier costumes. Also on offer are protective visors made using a 3D printer; objects used to open and close doors without having to touch them; a disinfection box for masks; a thermometer; and even a protective overblouse, specially sewn as a donation for nursing staff.

The latter proposal links up with another category: objects that demonstrate support for medical caregivers. These include banners attached to windows to thank doctors, nurses, and care assistants; pots, wooden spoons, and other handcrafted utensils used to show support during the 8pm city "meet-ups"; and a sound recording of the daily applause. Suggestions also came from the medical world, such as a video of the first resuscitation session of a cured patient in a hospital in the Ile-de-France region.

Many objects bear witness to pastimes (unusual and otherwise), set to the rhythm of the day, in a bid to continue to be "productive" and "creative"; these undoubtedly represent the largest category: artistic works are the most abundant and include paintings – many inspired by current events – featuring "Corona" beer bottles and toilet paper; drawings; photographs; sculptures; and pieces of literature, instrumental practice, and song. This subgroup is ahead of books and puzzles, games, and some rare kitchen accessories ... Objects that testify to sports practice are also well represented, such as yoga mats and sports equipment that in some cases have been customised, such as a wheelbarrow to which a harness is attached for use as a towing machine by adding the weight of the donor’s children, and a spreadsheet of calories burnt each day.

A set of objects marking the passage of time and embodying duration also emerges: calendars with lockdown days crossed out; diaries and schedulers recording activities that have been carried out; confinement journals; a cairn made of stones in which the days spent under lockdown at home are written; a notebook of daily menus; and a series of "punishment pages" for each lockdown day covered over with the words "I must stay at home".

Another significant category stands out – objects that bear witness to a novel, mixed-up relationship to the internal and the external. Here, footwear is particularly well represented, such as slippers worn indoors at home; hiking boots used during the authorised, daily doses of outdoor physical exercise; and items linked to a professional activity pursued during lockdown (shoes worn by a delivery person and ones left outside a freelance nurse’s front door every evening). Some offers demonstrate how the domestic space was rediscovered, such as plans for apartments drawn up by their occupants, or how these abodes can attract renewed levels of personal investment by being reorganised. Things are seen differently through our windows and, with photographs of outside views, cities that are asleep or alive despite the crisis, are filmed, such as Alexandria, photographed within a 1,000-metre radius of a home. Rediscovered objects, whose meaning now seems unusual, are also present, such as bunches of keys.

Other proposals testify to the profound and brutal change to social relations. Photographs of telephones, computers, and screengrabs of virtual meetings are numerous. One example is the story of a couple who were due to get married in April and whose relatives organised a surprise family reunion on the day via a virtual meeting platform and prepared a "fake" wedding photo. Another person has offered a photograph of a mass watched on TV.

Certain items highlight the importance of feelings of companionship we get from pets and animals – from the dog we take for walks to the birds we feed on our balcony and a list of all the animals seen from a window.

Others relating to homeschooling have also been made, such as remote learning programmes and the texts of dictations given remotely by a grandparent. These come

from parents, pupils, as well as teachers who approached their students or who want to shine a light on joint pieces of work.

The lockdown period also seems to have been conducive to the invention of objects that are useful for the new way of life: the zip-line linking two buildings facing each other that allow people to keep in touch with their neighbours; the set of hair clippers connected to a vacuum cleaner to prevent making a mess during a haircut; the wire that stops glasses steaming up ...

While these objects reveal a strong capacity to react and adapt in unprecedented times, it is the testimonies that reflect the hardest aspects of the period that has just been lived through. Two texts that were written for the funeral of loved ones evoke the sadness and difficulty of not being able to come together in difficult circumstances.

This demonstrates why it is important to highlight the texts that accompany the photographs of the proposed objects. They not only provide the necessary background information needed to understand the proposal, but they are also very personal, reflecting the state of mind of the donor.

All of the proposals will now be analysed by the Mucem's scientific team, led by Emilie Girard, the museum’s scientific and collections director. By the end of June, a list of the selected proposals will be drawn up and their arrival during July-August at the Museum's Conservation and Resource Centre will be organised. This selection will be based on the criteria of representativeness of the different categories, variety, and long-term conservation potential. The objects will then be presented to relevant decision-making parties for entry into the national collections (this acquisition commission is the Mucem's statutory body that ratifies any entry in the museum's inventory and is made up of various professionals from French and international museums).

At the same time, the Mucem is setting up a research programme to carry on the collection effort by welcoming a dedicated researcher within its team. The aim will be to study how the health crisis is causing large-scale societal changes that are felt in daily life – movements, inequalities, globalisation, environment, virtualisation. In this way, this body of objects constituted by the Mucem collection effort represents a starting point for studying these issues. They reveal the impact of the health crisis on our lifestyles, social ties, and imaginations.

Contacts are already underway with universities and researchers working on these subjects, as well as with museums or archive centres that have launched other collections in France and abroad with the aim of setting up a research and exchange network on this subject.

“Life under lockdown”


Centre de conservation et de ressources collections © Yves Inchierman, Mucem
Centre de conservation et de ressources (CCR) du Mucem © Yves Inchierman, Mucem

At a time when at the beginning of the 21st century, half of the world's population is living under lockdown, no one can deny that we are going through an unprecedented period, which is turning our lives upside down.
As a museum of the contemporary and the everyday, it is impossible for the Mucem not to cast its eye on this exceptional situation and, as such, is calling for the participation of those who wish to support it collect traces of these extraordinary times.

The Mucem launches a call for donations


A chance to offer objects or documents that for you symbolize, embody, or speak of daily life under lockdown. What objects do you think express the situation in which you live, work, spend time with, or connect to your children's home schooling? Which objects speak of the way you organize yourself when you leave your home, and of your relationships with others, be they near or far, at home and abroad, in France or elsewhere?

The Mucem is in search of those objects that have become the indispensable items of our lockdowned lives — unexpected or surprising; officially produced or homemade; creators of connection or symbols of isolation; expressing the tremendous solidarity and support being put in place or, on the contrary, of tendencies to reject and fear? 

How to make an offer of a donation 

Offers of donations are made by email to 

Every offer of a donation must be accompanied by:
—one or more photos of the object (of which, if possible, of the object in its usual context of usage or manufacture);
—a testimonial (spoken or a few written lines) explaining the reason for the donation and its importance in your present context.

All proposals received will be studied with the utmost attention by the museum's conservation team. If the proposal is accepted, the team will be in touch after the lockdown period to organize receipt of the object by the museum.

The collection will end on 31 May 2020. 


In press

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