From 1931 to 1960, the palace changed names several times, but kept the same functions: promoting “Overseas France” as well as the role of the overseas territories: Musée des colonies et de la France extérieure in 1932, then Musée de la France d’Outre-mer in 1935. In 1960, it became the Musée des Arts africains et océaniens (MAAO) and finally the Musée national des Arts d'Afrique et d'Océanie in 1990.
From 1935, the palace became the museum of Overseas France. Faithful to its original prerogatives, the institution perpetuated the spirit of the Colonial Exposition by combining aesthetic, educational and propaganda exhibitions designed to entice the visitor and encourage investment in the products of the empire. In the historical section, for example, colonial history is shown to begin with the Crusades and the stages of French expansion overseas seem to proceed smoothly from the Middle Ages right up to the "pacification" of Morocco. At no time are the first fissures in the colonial empire ever perceptible.
The economic and scientific sections presented the aggregate results of agriculture, industry, medicine and education in the colonies, while leaving a place for natural science, of which the ever-popular aquarium remained the main feature. From 1960, with the independence of the French colonies, the museum was forced to change orientations. André Malraux, then minister of Cultural Affairs, decided to make it a museum for promoting the arts and cultures of Africa and the Pacific. It thus became the Museum of African and Oceanian Arts. It revealed to the general public the creations of peoples that were long considered not to have produced any art. But from the beginning of its restructuration, the museum suffered from a relative lack of funds that restricted its collections to Africa and Oceania, neglecting Amerindian and Madagascan arts.
Le Hall d’honneur du Palais en 1935 © Albert Harlingue / Roger-Viollet
In 1990, it became the twelfth department of the Musées de France as the National Museum of the Arts of Africa and Oceania. Its mission was the conservation of references to colonial history and the promotion of non-Western arts. The aquarium continued as before.
In 2003, the museum closed its doors and its collections were removed to join those of the Musée du quai Branly, inaugurated in June 2006 by the then president of France Jacques Chirac. Only the aquarium remained open to the public.
In July 2004, the Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin decided that the Palais de la Porte Dorée would house the future Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration (National Centre for the History of Immigration).
A new campaign of works was launched in 2005 resulting in the opening of this Centre in 2007.