On 10 October 2007, France’s long-awaited immigration museum (Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration – CNHI) opened its permanent exhibition. The purpose of the museum, conceived in the 1980s and championed by former President Jacques Chirac, is to demonstrate the contributions immigrants have made to France, rather than the problems associated with them. It is meant "to gather, preserve, emphasize, and make available the elements relating to the history of immigration in France, in particular since the nineteenth century, and thus to contribute to the recognition of pathways to integration for immigrant populations in French society, and to aid in the evolution of visions and mentalities concerning immigration in France."


The museum explores two centuries of immigration to France, including the mass migrations of workers from Southern and Central Europe during the industrial revolution and the settling of people from France’s former colonies in Africa and South-East Asia. It also features exhibits on French racism and xenophobia. The museum comprises permanent exhibitions, an auditorium, a media library, and a teaching space dispersed over 16 000 square meters. The museum focuses on three principal themes: immigrants, France as a country of immigration, and the diversity of French identity.

Underscoring the political peril of the immigration issue, however, there was no formal inauguration ceremony, and neither Mr. Sarkozy nor Brice Hortefeux, the head of the new Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, were present for the museum’s opening. “This important museum tells the history of perhaps twenty-five percent of the French population, and it is stunning that it opened without the president of France,” said Patrick Weil, a historian of immigration, adding, “It’s an insult, a denial of part of French history.”  Mr. Weil was among several historians who resigned from the museum’s governing council this year to protest Mr. Sarkozy’s proposal to create the Ministry of Immigration and National Identity, widely interpreted during the presidential campaign as a move to attract votes from right-wing extremists. Jacques Toubon, the president of the new museum and a former Minister of Culture and Minister of Justice, called Mr. Sarkozy’s absence unimportant, saying of the criticism, “It’s just French nativist vinegar,” or, in other words, sour grapes.

Source: http://www.histoire-immigration.fr/