a few days ago, a rumor would run in Seine-et-Marne. Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron were going to go to Meaux, on the 11th of November to celebrate 100 years of the Armistice. The museum of the Great War did not finally welcomed the two heads of States. That’s not a problem, the institution, inaugurated in 2011, was attended by almost 9000 visitors for a day of celebration in tribute to the French soldiers who died in the Great War.

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The teams of the museum has received visitors without interruption from 10 hours to 23 hours. Entire families have discovered the behind-the-scenes of the conflict that has claimed the lives of over eighteen million people. Despite the rain and cold, a few thousand visitors attended the show Horizons in the park of the establishment, erected on the site of the first battle of the Marne. The musicians of the Ensemble Calliopée, which were ultimately not played on stage because of the weather, were inside the museum for a benefit intimate.

The night tour is accompanied by musicians playing the melodies of Maurice Ravel songs to the memory of the poilus. L. Trichot/Le Figaro

As of the end of the concert, the museum has reopened its doors for a night. Hundreds of visitors have lined up in front of the building to witness this unique moment worthy of the film A night at the museum. All the generations are represented, from 9 to 99 years old. In all the hands, flag blue white red offered by the Army. Or a candle of memory. Two objects, two messages.

Karen visit the museum of the Great War for the first time with his four children. “It was important for me to come because it’s part of our history. And I also wanted to get to know my children, she said. The museum is for all ages so it is interesting. Everyone has their way of discovering history. The greatest ask us questions about the consequences of the war. While most young people are interested in things that are more concrete, like how the soldiers lived in the trenches.”

The “lab of the Blueberry”

Exempted because they are too small and too skinny, Maurice Ravel played his contacts and became a truck driver near the front”

The input to a melody of Maurice Ravel. “The composer had been exempted from service because it was too small and too skinny. While some were doing everything to not to go there, he did the opposite. He played his contacts and became a truck driver near the front lines,” says the pianist to the audience, attentive to his words. His main instrument is installed between a truck, a car and a machine gun of the early Twentieth century. At his side, a clarinetist and interpreter of songs in the memory of the poilus.

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The other attraction of the evening is provided by men and women in the costumes of the time. Michel, president of the association Hairy Île-de-France, is faithful to the post in her outfit from the filming of un long dimanche de fiançailles. “This morning, we attended the celebrations of 11 November, but it was important for us to come to Meaux,” he says. We are glad to see as much of the world. This is moving. They come to see us, discussing, taking photos. We can see that the celebrations of the centenary of the Armistice were encouraged by the people.” Some of them, who came from Rouen, Alsace or Lille, wear costumes of origin, they find on the Internet or in a flea market.

The visitors stroll through the collections, discover the reconstructions of the trenches and the different kinds of uniforms worn by the soldiers. The children take the “lab of blueberries”, learn the weight of a shell of 75 mm and the number of soldiers engaged during the First world War. The public ends its tour through the temporary exhibition, Families in the event of the war , recognized to be of national interest. An exhibition composed of personal objects of the soldiers and their families, an intimate moment that allows you to feel the pain of their separation.

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Aurélie Perreten, the museum’s director, does not hide his satisfaction. “We are very pleased with the course of the evening and the number of people who came. This proves the importance of this moment of collaboration and the willingness of people to come together and share in the memory of the poilus, she says. It is a museum that has put the “living history” at the heart of its approach, it is also our mission.”