The world-famous Louvre museum has just opened a branch in a place few French would expect: the tiny town of Lens, about 200 kilometers north of Paris. Since 2004, the town’s government has done everything it could to convince the townspeople of the benefits of the museum branch, including inviting curators down for a series of lectures and regularly sending grade school students to the Paris museum. In August the team led a door-to-door operation to raise even more support, knocking on 1700 doors in a single month. According to Juliette Guépratte, “One third welcomed us, half of them were enthusiastic and the other half was either uninformed or were opposed to it.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Criticism and jealousy came from many sides, including citizens who thought a factory would better serve the coal mining town, as well as businesspeople in nearby and more fashionable Lille, who believed the museum belonged in their city instead. However, with 250 direct and 500 indirect jobs coming to Lens, some businesspeople are eager to welcome the expected influx of tourists and cash. One restaurant owner says, “What a pleasure it is…to be able to participate in the development of the local area, even if it’s only on a small, personal scale.“