The one-of-a-kind MuCEM Museum - the Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerrannée, or the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations - in Marseille, completely dedicated to European and Mediterranean cultures.
At the entrance to the Vieux Port, where visitors to Marseille have been gathering for centuries, the monumental museum captures all your senses.
Heavily anchored in the past, the MuCEM also aims to be a witness to the present, at a time when the Mediterranean world is going through intense religious, social, and political change.
A Rich Collection in Three Spaces
A mini-cultural city within a city, the MuCEM houses over one million artworks, artifacts, and documents.
The complex testament to Mediterranean heritage is spread out over 40,000 square meters, and is mostly divided into two buildings:
- The J4
Rudy Riciotti, a French architect born in Algeria, took the idea of the Old Port and designed a fully contemporary building. Here, you can find the histories behind Mediterranean civilizations from the Neolithic era all the way to the present day in the Galerie de la Méditerrannée, a semi-permanent exhibit space. The schedule events varies and also includes debates, shows, and film screenings in the auditorium and multimedia library. The roof balcony is also well worth a visit.
- The Fort Saint-Jean
This amazing historical monument (the building mostly dates to the seventeenth century) is linked to the J4 through a 115-meter-long elevated concrete passageway. A military base up through 1962, the building first opened to the public when it was incoroporated as part of the MuCEM. Here, you can find permanent exhibits (art and popular traditions) in the Village et la Galerie des Officiers, as well as in the Chapelle Saint-Jean. Temporary exhibits can also be seen in the Georges-Henri Rivière building. Of course, we can't forget the fifteen different gardens, perfect for a sunny walk, or the Tour du Roi René for a must-see view of Marseille and the sea.
Amongst the museum's artifacts: a Gavioli festival organ (classified as a National Treasure), a mock-up of the Saint-Sépulcre de Jérusalem (17th century), and even a Sakieh, an animal-powered hydraulic instrument that once drew water from the Nile Valley.
A third location, the Centre de Conservation et de Ressources (CCR), completes the set. Located in the Quartier de la Belle and designed by architect Corinne Vezzoni, it is home to documentaries, the library, and artistic archives.
A Dialogue Between Cultures
What is the aim - or rather, the aims - of the MuCEM?
- Highlight the relations maintained between Mediterranean cultures and the rest of the world through the centuries
- Promote dialogue, meetings, and exchanges between civilizations
- Participate in the preservation of history and memory (colonial history, conflicts of the past that carry into the present, etc.)
- Provide information on different cultures, groups, and traditions (religions, diets, clothing, music)
- Various other disciplines (anthropology, sociology, archeology, and history)
The Long History of MuCEM
The roots of this project go very far back, since in reality, the MuCEM involved the transfer of an already-existing museum.
Initiated in 1884 through the Salle de France at the Musée d'Ethnographie du Trocadéro, the MuCEM was first born in 1937 under the name of the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires.
In 1972, it moved - not far from the Jardin d'Acclimatation in the Bois de Boulogne - and in 2000, the French government announced its second move to Marseille.
Finally, in 2005, the old museum closed its doors to reopen in 2008 in the south of France, in the famous European Capital of Culture (Marseille-Provence 2013).