Institutions responding to questions around working-class lodgings, immigration, the everyday, and suburbs…

Organised Visit by the Tony Garnier Museum, Lyon (© Tony Garnier Museum)

  • The Tenement Museum, founded in New York in 1988, offers guided tours of apartments, where more than 700 immigrants of twenty different nationalities lived between 1863 and 1935. The motivation behind this project is to highlight the role that immigration played in the evolution of American identity. 

  • The Urban Museum Tony Garnier (Musée urbain Tony Garnier), established in 1992 in Lyon, is devoted to the architecture of Tony Garnier who conceived of the first low-cost housing project in France, le Quartier des États-Unis, in 1917. The museum consists of an immeuble-témoin (buildings preserved to provide examples of housing in by-gone eras), furnished and organised by tenants of Tony Garnier city, recounting the daily life of the inhabitants in the interwar period.

  • The Museum of Urban and Social History of Suresnes was established in 2010. It traces the history of the city, most notably the activities of Henri Sellier. Sellier was Mayor and Minister for Public Health in the interwar period, and a major supporter of the low-cost housing in Cités-jardins. The museum also has an immeubles-témoin, created in 2016.

  • Le Rize was founded by the Villeurbanne local council at the beginning of the 2000’s. This is a unique cultural space, dedicated to the “working class, multi-ethnic and fraternal memory of the urban space of the twentieth century”. This site is anchored in Villeurbanne and offers an important way of understanding urbanisation during the Industrial Revolution. Le Rize presents a complex but unified story to its visitors, one constructed through multiple voices, through archives, the memory of its residents and the work of affiliated researchers.

  • Firminy (site Le Corbusier) is a former mining town. From 1957, 1070 units of social housing were created there, supported by communal services. This institution received the grand prize for urbanism in 1961. At this site, Le Corbusier also worked on the “Centre for the Re-creation of Body and Mind” composed of three buildings: the Maison de la Culture, stadium and the church of Saint-Pierre.

  • La Maison de Banlieue et de l’Architecture is based in Athis-Mons. It is a “centre for the interpretation of urban environment, the heritage of suburbs and architecture”. The project seeks to build on and enrich our knowledge of the suburbs and provide residents there, as well as the general public, techniques of interpretation and analysis of the human environment, urban space and architectural setting of suburbs.

  • La Maison radieuse de Rezé is the second housing unit created by Le Corbusier. Built in 1955, it followed a similar project in Marseille, but preceded his work in Berlin. Following the idea of the modular principle and the golden number, Le Corbusier developed a system which sought to construct apartments inside a post-and-beam structure of reinforced concrete. 

  • La Cité radieuse, in Marseille, is a complex built between 1947 and 1952 by Le Corbusier, which sought to create a new form of urban space around the idea of a “vertical village”. The project consists of 337 apartments separated by internal streets, alongside a hotel of 21 rooms.

  • Bataville is the name given to an industrial complex in Moselle. This was created in 1931 for Tomáš Baťa, founder of the Bata shoe brand, the largest producer of shoes in the world. This working-class complex includes businesses, a school, a swimming pool and a stadium. It is one of the most famous in Europe and a rare example of such a project being removed from any form of urban agglomeration. 

  • Le Grand Hornu is a former mining complex at Hainaut in Belgium, erected between 1910 and 1930 by Henri De Gorge. It includes workshops and offices for coal, a town of 450 houses, each with a private garden, and a residence for administrators. The town also has a school, a hospital, a library, a dancehall, and public spaces. In 1984, a not-for-profit organisation was established there with a triple mission: heritage, tourism, and culture. Since then, the site has hosted the CID – the Centre for Innovation and Design as well as the Museum of Contemporary Arts.

  • La Cité des électriciens was constructed by the Mining Company of Bruay-la-Buissière between 1856 and 1861 to accommodate mining families. It represents the oldest mining town in the Bassin minier of Pas-de-Calais. It testifies to the progressive evolution of working-class urban spaces throughout the nineteenth century. After many years of decline, it welcomed several artistic projects in 2008. Its rehabilitation has allowed it to become a heritage and tourism site and, with the construction of social housing, has helped it resume its initial function.

  • L'Ecomusée du Fier Monde was founded in 1980 in Montréal. Public engagement and pedagogy are a key part of this museum and it is known for its participative projects, involving the local population, as well as institutions and groups in the local area. 

  •  Le Familistère de Guise was built in 1859 by the industrialist Jean-Baptiste André Godin to provide decent living conditions for those working in his nearby factory. This “social brick palace”, inspired by the Chateau of Versailles, is still occupied today and includes a school and the theatre. Rejuvenated in 2000, it also contains a museum and new accommodation.

  • L'appartement témoin Perret in Havre was conceived by the Perret workshop in 1946. It offers unique insight into the steps taken to rehome residents after WWII and through everyday objects we come to learn about the ‘Trente Glorieuses’. Having not been studied previously, the reconstruction of the interior of these apartments is also an important contribution to academic debates.

  • L'Ecomusée du Val de Bièvre, is devoted to the way of life of residents of the suburbs past and present. Working with these residents through a series of activities such as exhibitions, workshops, outreach.

Online Archives

Screenshot of the Homepage of the Online Archives of the Ville d’Aubervilliers

Innovative Public History Initiatives

Screenshot of the Webpage “It Happened Here” (“Ça S’est Passé Ici”)

  •  L’association La Boîte à Histoire is a collective of young historians who work to reinforce the relationship between academic history and public in France. Established in 2017 by students from the master’s in public history of the UPEC, this society (Law 1901) has both a social and pedagogical aim. In bringing the public into the elaboration of historical knowledge – both intellectually and methodologically – it encourages the general public to develop a critical historical approach.

  • “It Happened Here” (Ça s’est passé ici) by Cécile Cros, Laurence Bagot, Sarah Gensburger, Isabelle Backouche, are a series of immersive recordings that recount the history of the space where historic events occurred; they explore the distract, the street, the building and give voice – through archives – to those who lived this experience. Geo-localising these archives can allow us to better understand history, discover new perspectives and fully appreciate the importance of everyday spaces.

  • Le Madeleine Project, by Clare Beaudoux, is an investigative project which offers a portrait of Madeleine, a former tenant of the apartment where the author currently lives: ‘Her name was Madeleine, she would be 100 in 2015. My name is Clara, I m 31. We have never met. She is the woman who lived in the apartment before me, for twenty years. She died one year before I arrived. The apartment was completely redone, but it seems that everyone had forgotten about the basement. There I discovered the whole life of Madeleine, objects, photos, letters. I dived into them”. 

  • Les Enfants du 209, rue Saint Maur is a documentary by Ruth Zylberman. The director selected a building at random and, over several years, researched its history, before, during and after WWII. She found the former tenants in Paris, the suburbs, in the country, Melbourne, New York and Tel Aviv and she retraces the history of this anonymous building, seizing the traces of a broken intimacy and gathering the threads of a past marked by violence and deportations.

Artistic Projects

Video Performance ‘Objekt-Projekt’ at the Festival Sauvage du Clos Sauvage (© Les AllumeuR.E.S - Paul Kozlowski)

  • The Museum of Ordinary Objects by the Kitchen Theatre calls for participants from residents who seek to create an ephemeral museum, where ordinary objects are exposed, brought and labelled by the locals. The objects presented thus offer a poetic cartography of the population of an area, a town, or district and speak to its diversity.

  • La Conserverie, un lieu d'archives, created by Anne Delrez, and situated at Metz, is a space dedicated to “family” photographs. “A type of photography which, like an old and much-loved jumper, is deformed by the years and has grown with us. This image which releases the language of emotions, who because of its ordinary social nature, carries within it the complex attributes of our collective history”.

  • Les AllumeuR.E.S works in part in Aubervilliers and proposes to create works in situ which they propose to re-interpret over time. Interdisciplinary and rhizomatic – based on multiple roots – their work evolves according to the experiments, collaborations and intersections between art and politics.

  • The Les Cousines group was created in 2014 by Camille Amzallag, Lolita Bourdet and Charlotte Yonga a Montreuil. Though their projects, they highlight the complex relations between communities and spaces. Their research resonates strongly with ideas of flux and individual delocalisation.

  • Mathieu Pernot is an artist whose work is based on documentary photography, but which disrupts its traditional conventions in order to explore alternative reformulations and to construct plurivocal narratives. Pernot proceeds either by creating a series of photographs – sometimes tied together by personalities, timelines or themes – or else through encountering images in archives.