Why utopian goals are increasingly ascribed to museums in France? To what extent do these public institutions tend to exonerate French policies for disregarding people and cultures whose objects are displayed in museums?
Focused on the Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (hereafter MuCEM) created in 2013 at Marseille, this article explores three aspects: first, the MuCEM’s goal to inaugurate a new type of museum in resonance with current geopolitical concerns and to play the role of “a Mediterranean crossroads”. The second aspect deals with the diverse yet complementary functions assigned to the MuCEM: a cultural center, a forum, a multidisciplinary museum and a place that might “help to lay the foundations for the Mediterranean world of tomorrow”The third and last point concerns the museum’s mission to overcome the conflicted and difficult memories associated with France’s colonial past and to establish a new kind of bonds between peoples living in the two shores of the Mediterranean. It is not irrelevant that the MuCEM’s scientific project was developed by 2010 at the same time as the Arab spring; this coincidence was seized by the museum to present itself as an institution promoting “the creation of new exchanges in the region”. The assumption that the creation of an ideal museum, as a space of dialogue and exchanges between cultures, could solve some sensitive issues in society is indeed a utopian project made only possible within the museum walls.