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The “Galerie des dons”

The Musée National de l’histoire de l’immigration is designed as an interactive space. Any visitor wishing to entrust his or her family’s migratory experience is invited to offer the museum a share of its intimate and singular personal history, whether individual or collective.

galerie des dons ambiance

Photo Anne Volery

Objects and photographs, often handed down from generation to generation, are exhibited in this way in the Galerie des dons (Gift Gallery). In this unique original space, they enter the collection of a common national heritage to tell the stories of lives that make history.

Adjoining the permanent exhibition Repères, the Galerie des dons presents archives and objects linked to an individual life. Each visitor can contribute a gift to this collection. A personal account accompanies each memento.

These snapshots of life are exhibited in display cases in a completely subjective way, designed as an autobiographical account in cooperation with the lender or donor.   

Part of the display design stage of the Musée de l'histoire de l'immigration in 2006, the Galerie des dons opened to the public in 2008, and needed a complete reorganization in order to house a collection that grows each year. 

In an entirely redesigned space covering 450m2, the visitor discovers a sensitive history of immigration through a selection of 250 objects, 40 life histories of migrants and new mediation devices. 

Any visitor wishing to entrust his or her family’s migratory experience is invited to offer the museum a share of its intimate and singular personal history.

Life Stories that Make History 

In the Galerie des dons, the museum offers visitors a chance to discover individual lives that have their place in the history of immigration. They are presented by means of objects and personal accounts that enrich the museum’s ethnological collection. 

While the permanent collection, Repères, presents a collective history of immigration dotted with singular stories, this gallery focuses on family history and illustrates the power of the personal account. 

The Galerie des dons "brings” stories, photos or objects “into the museum". Moving from the intimate family circle to the public space of a museum cannot be done without emotion, even hesitation, on the donor’s part. The museum accompanies them in this veritable process of midwifery.

The object and the personal account thus enter the museum’s collections, enriching the shared heritage of these individual lives. This integration into the national heritage adds to the recognition and legitimacy of the contribution of immigration to French society. 

This means of acquisition by a gift creates a new type of heritage. 

Included in the museum, these objects, which were until then only family memories, identity papers, outdated employment contracts or personal archives, add to the “material proof” of immigration in France. Now part of the inventory, these groups of objects, of a different nature and of different origins, achieve unity by becoming a "national collection".

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