During a visit to the Lascaux caves earlier this month, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that the a new Musée de l'histoire de France would be opened in 2015, in the Archives Nationales in Paris. The Archives Nationales is not an easy place to work as a researcher, as I know all too well, but now the unions of the staff there are going on strike in opposition to the plan to bring the new museum to the site. Here is an excerpt of the report by Florence Evin and Thomas Wieder, in an article (Les Archives nationales en grève contre l'arrivée du Musée d'histoire de France, September 26) for Le Monde (my translation):
The staff of the Archives Nationales in Paris voted on Friday for a renewable strike in a near-total majority (five abstentions of 160 votes). Their determination seems strong and they form a united front: representatives of the union syndicate have occupied the Hôtel de Soubise night and day since September 16. The same building where Napoleon installed the Archives, in 1808, in the heart of the Parisian neighborhood of the Marais.From the sound of it, this could get ugly.
On Thursday, during a meeting with the Minister of Culture, Frédéric Mitterrand, the two sides drew their battle lines: "After words of praise about the Archives as the 'beating heart' of French history, the Minister of Culture spoke of the natural and necessary marriage of the institutions, adding that it was 'my life's work'," says Wladimir Susanj, from one of the unions. For Michel Thibault, from another of the unions, the President's decision was an "abduction of memory."
The staff of the Archives have in effect several reasons to worry. The future museum, which may take up one-third of the 36,000 square meters of the building, endangers some projects. Like the movement of the collections of the Ancien Régime, one part of which remains piled up under the roof, with no concern for its proper conservation. Or the cataloguing of the notarial minutes of Paris, stalled for some years.