With the creation of the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration, now called the Musée national de l'histoire de l'immigration, the Palais de la Porte Dorée entered a new phase in its history by becoming the chosen reference for the history of immigration.
The question of a site for a future Museum of Immigration was soon mooted and the idea of the Porte Dorée Palace was soon accepted.
The bas-reliefs on the facade, Marshall Lyautey’s desk, the reception hall frescoes: all these refer to the primary designation of this site, and very soon the debate concerned whether the history of immigration might be seen as a subset of the history of colonization and threaten to scramble the institution’s message.
The image of immigration is already highly influenced by a certain paternalism originating in the period of colonization, and the representations inherited from that time are far from being erased from the collective unconscious of the French people.
The objective of the museum is precisely to tackle stereotypes, to deconstruct the imagery inherited from colonization, to overturn the symbols. It is a question of showing that the German poet of the 19th century and the Portuguese construction worker of the end of the 20th century, the Polish, Italian and Moroccan miners and the Spanish refugee, the Italian farm worker and the South American exile, the Belgian worker and the African student are all part of the history of France. In this rich tapestry, despite the symbolic weight of the edifice, the profusion of humanity and cultural diversity that it reveals cannot be effaced.
The exhibition rooms of the museum aim to reveal and recognize the contribution of immigration to France through the history of the last two centuries. Based on archives, photographs, artworks, everyday objects and personal accounts presented in sound recordings and on video, the permanent exhibition Repères attempts to enhance the role played by immigrants in the economic development, social changes and cultural life of France.
The exhibition describes world movements of populations, migrations to France as well as the places where migrants settled within the country from the 20th century onwards. The exhibit, in seven interactive sequences, corresponds to the path of a person who has left his country and gone through the various stages of settling in France.