The City of Avranches will only have one museum open to the public – the Scriptorial – from next Saturday September 30. The building of the Avranches Museum of Art and History, located in the city’s former prison, will become a conservation center, while the museum’s collections will be integrated into the Scriptorial.
This decision was announced by Mayor David Nicolas during his wishes to the population and during the last Municipal Council meeting last July. It follows consultation with the Avranches heritage service, the Friends of the Museum association and the Normandy Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC).
“Today, in what was once a prison, the reserves dedicated to the growing collections have gradually reduced the exhibition spaces”explains David Nicolas to Arts Journal. The museum only presented part of its 15,000 objects, “only 6 to 7%, which is below the national average”. In addition, it only opened for a very limited period, from June to September, and attracted few visitors, unlike the Scriptorial, dedicated to the manuscripts of Mont Saint-Michel, which attracts around 25,000 visitors per year.
The building of the Museum of Art and History will therefore be transformed into “epicenter of the Avranches heritage system”. Its spaces will be reorganized for different uses: restoration of works, bringing together collections for exhibitions, photographic laboratory for digitizing documents, space for studies and welcoming researchers from other cultural institutions. It will also be occasionally open to the public to present the remains of the old prison or new acquisitions.
As for the Scriptorial, its tour route will be redesigned to integrate the museum’s collections, while retaining part of the visit dedicated to medieval manuscripts. “Currently, the Scriptorial only exhibits 70 objects, leaving plenty of room to accommodate others”explains the mayor who was the scientific manager of the museum between 1998 and 2012.
To make this project a reality, the City of Avranches is looking for a program architect to carry out a diagnosis at the beginning of 2024 and determine which collections will be exhibited permanently or temporarily.
For its last opening day, September 30, the museum will open its doors free of charge, to allow the public to discover the City’s collections. “This is the first day of a series of meetings which will take place throughout 2024.” The drafting phase of the scientific and cultural project (PSC) will be accompanied, in fact, by exchanges open to the public or conferences, making it possible to follow the development of future museum policy.
The Museum of Art and History – founded in 1835 – was first installed in the episcopal palace before being moved to the former Capuchin convent, in the Jardin des Plantes, after a devastating fire in 1899. It was destroyed a second time during the bombings of 1944. Each time, only a small part of the collections survived. In 1963, the museum found its place in a former prison, where it exhibited ethnographic collections from Lower Normandy, archaeological collections, paintings by local artists, and presented the history of the Second World War in Avranches. Part of its collections have already been presented at the Scriptorial since 2006.