In 2017, a brand-new Franco-American Museum opened its doors with a considerably enlarged building, modern, architecturally designed spaces overlooking the surrounding countryside and a compelling museography. The two wings, once separated, are now joined by a vast glass hall, while the basement rooms, incorporating the archaeological remains discovered during the excavations, have doubled the exhibition area.
The new extension, allows the permanent collections to be organised around three key themes: the Ideals of the Enlightenment at the origin of the first alliances between the two nations, the Ordeals during which France and America fought side-by-side, and the Arts, a subject of many transatlantic exchanges.
The shared ideals of freedom and democracy, born in the 18th century philosophy of the Enlightenment, are the basis not only of the American Declaration of Independence but also of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen adopted by the French Revolution. However, these ideals of freedom and equality between citizens remained theoretical on both sides of the Atlantic at the beginning of the 19th century: Amerindians, slaves and women were excluded.
It was because of the French support for the American War of Independence at the end of the 18th century, through the figures of Lafayette and Rochambeau, that in return thousands of American volunteers helped France during the two World Wars.
Many American artists chose to study in France during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These artists embraced the artistic language in vogue in their adopted country, notably realism and impressionism, which have a prominent place in the museum. French artists went to America to discover its gigantic cities and magnificent landscapes.