Victor Pereira was part of the committee that worked on drafting a proposal for the new permanent exhibition of the National Museum of Immigration History, at the Palais de la Porte Dorée, in Paris. Consisting of some 45 historians and geographers, it was chaired by Patrick Boucheron (Collège de France) and Romain Bertrand (Sciences Po), working over two years (2017-2018).
Under the new direction of Constance Rivière, the exhibition opened last month and, along 1800 m2, in what was the main pavilion of the Colonial Exhibition of 1931, it combines historical notes, documentaries, everyday objects and art, constituting a chronological path of the history of immigration in France, from 1685 (year of the publication of the Code Noir, which defined the status of black people in France, and of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes) to the present day, including the daily life of Portuguese refugees in the 1960s.
In an interview to Libération, Patrick Boucheron said that the aim of the new museum was to “change the look”, to “get angry” at “a distorted perception of the realities of immigration, both due to ignorance and to the effects of political discourse, which we have to face, instead of trying to make up a new declamatory security law every ten months!”. After a visit to the museum and in a statement to the same newspaper, Rima Abdul-Malak, Minister of Culture, stressed that “we need more places like this, where people can step back in history, where they can relate to these migrations through pieces of their lives. Because behind the statistics and history with a capital ‘h’, there are human lives.”
As well as being the starting point for the new exhibition, the committee’s work has also resulted in a book, a theoretical toolbox, “Faire musée d’une histoire commune. Rapport de préfiguration de la nouvelle exposition permanente du Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration” (Seuil, 2019), which included three chapters by Victor Pereira, focusing on the history of the bidonvilles, the regularisations at the Hendaye train station, and Zeca Afonso’s song Grândola Vila Morena.
Images of the exhibition kindly provided by Paulo Jorge Sousa Pinto.
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