Guided Tours of the New York Lower East Side Tenement Museum (© Tenement Museum)
Constructing a Collection
This project demands a fundamentally unique approach to assembling a historical collection. This calls for a close collaboration and a work of co-construction between researchers, residents and actors in the local area. Only such an intimate dialogue can fully do justice to the potential of this immeuble-témoin, in faithfully reconstructing both the physical apartments, as well as the lived-experience of these former residents.
Members of our association and affiliated researchers have identified the generations of residents who have lived in this building and have thus been able to retrace their steps and history, collecting the necessary information to faithfully reconstruct their homes. This enquiry relies on a range of sources, from municipal or departmental archives to commercial records, from tenancy applications to all forms of sources that can shed new light on the conditions of life of the former residents.
This vast corpus of sources has been expanded through a rigorous campaign of interviews and the collection of testimony from former residents, their descendants and their neighbours, whose memories enrich the content of our research. This collection seeks to build an oral archive, presented in different forms throughout the museum; aural and visual documents, as well as stories and documents retold by our guides. These testimonies offer a sense of the lived-experience of the inhabitants, essential for a fully embodied understanding of their history.
A Collection of Local Objects
Alongside traditional archival material, a significant part of this museum is made up of everyday objects granted to us by local residents. Residents are regarded as stakeholders in the reconstruction of the inside of these lodgings. Their testimony, merged with the analysis of visual archival material, provides an excellent resource to identify and select the objects, furniture and emblematic accessories of working-class dwellings in the twentieth century.
‘My Apartment’ by Sarah, 2020 (© AMuLoP)
A Diversified Approach, Based on Public Participation
The Museum of Working-Class Housing is intended for a wide public, from local residents to international tourists. In order to match our ambition, it is essential that the museum operates in a fully inclusive way, in collaboration with those coming from these suburban areas, and particularly the men and women of the Plaine Commune.
A Public Discovering a Global Urban Space
In the time of Grand Paris, this museum will stimulate all those who wish to discover the Parisian region in a new light: that of a truly metropolitan world. The heritage which the museum elucidates is a question of historical value as important for those living in Grand Paris, as it will be to French and foreign tourists. To this end, the written and oral content of the exhibition will be translated into several languages.
Students and Outreach
The themes which the museum addresses make it a particularly appropriate space for students of all ages and levels. Counting several secondary-school level teachers within its ranks, AMuLoP has prioritised the construction of a diverse educational policy. In 2019, our application for LéA status (Site of Associated Education) was approved by the Ministry of Education. Members of the association will carry out research on scientific mediation and learning in social history at both Le-Corbusier high school in Aubervilliers and the Jean-Lurçat middle school in Saint-Denis. Moreover, secondary-school students are included within the collection of testimonies, thus encouraging intergenerational links in the area. Outside of the visit to immeubles-témoins, workshops will be offered to students, in connection with the program of the museum.
Following the example of New York’s Tenement Museum, visits to the museum seek to be as lively as possible and in close contact with the local reality. Students from University Paris 8 Vincennes-Sant-Denis, residents of Plaine Commune, and those entering or re-entering the world of work will all be trained in offering guided tours. The value in training the local population is that they can thus offer their own experience of the area to the story of the history of these former inhabitants. This will thus bring together the singular example of the building itself with the unique experiences of the guide and a historical account of working-class dwellings in suburban Paris.