Museon Arlaten
Past meets present

Image © S. Normand — Cd13, Museon Arlaten-musée de Provence

Arles, France


The Museon Arlaten (Museum of Arles) was founded at the end of the 19th century by the Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral – recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1904. Mistral was passionate about preserving the cultural heritage and identity of his region. Now, after a lengthy renovation, the museum that realized his dream is preparing to reopen its doors to visitors once more.

Image © S. Normand — Cd13, Museon Arlaten-musée de Provence

Image © S. Normand — Cd13, Museon Arlaten-musée de Provence

Housed within a historical Renaissance complex, whose inner courtyard hosts the ancient remains of the Roman Forum, it is an ethnological museum that tells the story of life in Provençe from the 18th century to the present day.

The rich collection comprises more than 38,000 objects of daily life, together with painting, sculpture, graphic art and photography, along with a variety of archaeological and naturalistic finds.

Project architects, Tetrarc studio in Nantes, made a choice to respect the museum’s previous installations by preserving the most significant ones. Retaining these historical traces makes the building an intriguing ’museum of the museum’, but simultaneously develops contemporary themes to encourage reflection and awaken curiosity. It is hoped visitors will also feel inspired to discover the region’s contemporary cultural and social life.

A permanent exhibition entitled Place of Memory captures the daily routines and lifestyles of the Provençal people with poetic charm.

Exhibits are enhanced by digital tools that unlock richer meaning in the collections and their staging. Together, objects and technology reveal the intangible heritage that lies at the heart of a community’s life.

The permanent exhibition will be accompanied by a program of temporary exhibitions housed in the former chapel of the Jesuit college. This novel, historic location also hosts carefully preserved elements from its past: a monumental wooden altarpiece and a marble altar from the 17th century.

Image © S. Normand — Cd13, Museon Arlaten-musée de Provence

Image © S. Normand — Cd13, Museon Arlaten-musée de Provence

The layout created by Goppion includes around 30 large showcases of different types and sizes. Significant standalone pieces include a special pantograph-opening table, the Hypercube display case (a transparent 2x2m cube openable on four sides). The large glass-diorama of the Ateliers des Couturiers – an impressive reconstruction of a craft workshop - are combined with series of wall showcases with sliding openings, recessed in the historical structure of the building. There are also wall-box display cabinets with door-openings, and a series of entirely transparent island showcases seamlessly embedded within the wooden flooring.

Goppion’s showcases work beautifully with their setting and the rich variety of objects they contain. They also guarantee a high level of airtightness equal to one air change every ten days.

The laminated safety glass is anti-reflection and extra clear. This guarantees perfect visibility of the works on display, which are illuminated thanks to adjustable LED spots. For the passive control of internal relative humidity, the showcases are equipped with drawers for silica gel. Showcases containing works of greater fragility house active air-conditioning systems and, for those of larger dimensions, even an overpressure system.

You can read more about the history of the project here: