Right in the center of Paris, halfway between the Louvre and the Grands Boulevards, the “quadrilateral Richelieu” suffered from an outdated image of a den for bookworms.

For its reopening, on the occasion of the European Heritage Days on Saturday and Sunday, visitors will discover a place that has highlighted its most sumptuous aspects, much more welcoming, bright and airy.

In her presentation of the place, the Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak salutes “an architecture guided by modernity, openness, transparency, fluidity”.

This renovation was not without controversy.

The dismantling of a monumental staircase, leading to the museum precisely, but considered too massive for the circulation of visitors and users in the hall, made the admirers of this piece of architecture talk. She is waiting to find out her next destination.

– Sumerian tablet –

The unions have denounced the means devoted to the museum, according to them a “prestige project” which should not mask the deterioration of services to the public.

The president of the BnF, Laurence Engel, retorts that making the collections accessible to the widest public, whose richness is not always known, is at the heart of her mission. “Having a museum that will show this diversity was very important for us,” she told AFP.

She sees the completion of this project, but it was spread over three presidencies of the institution. The 12 years of work, the biggest project of the Ministry of Culture since the beginning of the century, cost the State 261 million euros.

Patrons also contributed, including the Rockefeller family, or major French groups such as Saint-Gobain, which donated a glass gallery.

The museum offers an exceptional setting for unique pieces that will change regularly.

Thus, “4,500 years separate the oldest work presented in the first rotation, a Sumerian tablet with cuneiform inscription, from the most recent, Cahier d’un retour au pays natal by Aimé Césaire, illustrated by Daniel Buren”, specifies the BnF.

– First in its time –

“We show the history of the world. Because we have collections which go from Antiquity to the present day and which retrace this history, in particular the relations between France and the world”, explains to AFP the museum’s scientific advisor, Gennaro Toscano.

As he likes to recall, the latest museum in the French capital was also the first of its time.

Thanks to the royal collections amassed from the end of the 15th century, and Colbert’s desire to provide France with an ambitious library open to scholars, it really began at the end of the 17th century.

This minister of King Louis XIV “brings together books, manuscripts and printed matter, precious, archaeological and numismatic objects, and an immense and extremely rich collection of prints and drawings” which will be visible to visitors who were not only aristocrats , recalls Mr. Toscano.

The 21st century museum takes up and further democratizes this spirit, in seven rooms of 1,200 m². The most sumptuous is the Mazarin Gallery, 45 meters long.

The first globe on which “America” ​​is written stands next to the Napoleon Code bound for the Emperor or the manuscript of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”.

Entrance to the museum costs 10 euros (8 euros reduced rate), but an annual pass to access it, as well as all the reading rooms of the BnF, is sold for 15 euros until Thursday.