A “crowd-created” curatorial project at MuCEM in Marseille.

Home » A “crowd-created” curatorial project at MuCEM in Marseille.

Psychodémie: a collective historical heritage

Credit: Roland Halbe

“The goal of the museum is to promote Mediterranean heritage, to participate in the creation of new exchanges in the region and, in this time of profound upheaval, to help lay the foundations for the Mediterranean world of tomorrow. In Marseille, MuCEM is a place where, nationally and internationally, people can learn more about the Mediterranean.”


The Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is one of the largest ethnographic museums in the world. It holds the anthropological heritage dedicated to the civilizations of the Mediterranean where the foundations of the cradle of Mediterranean civilization and the energies that have always flowed through it are explored.

The complex consists of two buildings located in Marseille’s Old Port and the Centre de Conservation et de Ressources (CCR), located in the Belle-de-Mai district, which houses the museum’s storage facilities and a specialized library.

At the entrance to the old harbor, the historic military fort of Saint-Jean is connected by a suspended footbridge to the J4 building, a structure designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti that is easily recognizable by its sunshade, reminiscent of the play of light reflections on water.

In these buildings, in continuous dialogue between past and present, the anthropological heritage dedicated to Mediterranean civilizations is housed. In the spaces of the Fort Saint-Jean, the collection tells the socio-historical evolution of Marseille and Provence, while the main permanent exhibition is inside building J4 – at the Galerie de la Mediterranée – where the various cultures of the Mediterranean are presented through works of art, everyday objects, models, images and multimedia installations.

Keeping true to its mission, MuCEM aims to offer its audience a “contemporary agora” for meeting, listening and debating social issues.

Out of the curatorial team’s desire to keep in touch with their audience came the Psychodémie exhibition, a co-creation project born out of the need to narrate and reflect on the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and early confinement.

At the initiative of scientific director Émile Girard, a search for the emblematic objects used in enforced isolation began in April 2020.

People were invited to share with the museum the objects that accompanied them in their daily lives, and thanks to more than six hundred testimonies, one hundred and twenty objects became part of the museum’s permanent collections, thus creating a small segment of contemporary memory.

Present at the Galerie de la Mediterranée until March 25, 2022, the exhibition compares this collective collection with the work of photographer Antoine d’Agata, with more than thirteen thousand photographs taken during the same period, confronting the effects of the lockdown to search for the visible and invisible signs of this crisis, in the deserted streets, crowded hospitals, emergency centers where the sick were being treated, and shelters where the last were cared for.

Thanks to the creation of a shared historical heritage and the work of Antoine d’Agata, the exhibition offers a comparison of two parallel realities that coexisted during that period: life within the walls of the home and life among the streets of the cities, the stillness of people and the circulation of the virus, the intimacy of received testimonies as opposed to the anonymity of lives reduced to their simplest physiological expression.

The creation of a “crowd-created” exhibition gives the museum a chance to carve out a space in the lives of its audience. People thus have the opportunity to participate in an initiative that affects them closely, sharing experiences they have lived through during a time that has challenged all of humankind.

By making its spaces available and engaging its audience, it shows how MuCEM has its mission in mind and its desire to be a “contemporary agora” for its audience, where it can develop, debate and create moments of reflection on topics and events that have marked human history.

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