Jean Garcin 39-45 museum
Life during the Second World War
For 30 years, the Jean Garcin 39-45 History Museum has immersed visitors into the daily life of the Second World War. With sets showing both life indoors and the atmosphere in the streets during this pivotal period of history, the Museum paints a realistic picture of the era through totally immersive scenery and 1,400 documents providing background information. From France in the shadows to insurgent France, experience the history of the country and its journey towards freedom.
Historically-accurate Set Design
With sets designed by Willy Holt, several interiors fitted with furniture from the period have been constructed at the museum’s entrance. In turn, sets showing a classroom, home, and grocery store, each affected by the shortage of everyday items during the war, plunge us into the atmosphere of everyday life in France during the Second World War. In the background, the static of old audio clips adds to the atmosphere. It is truly moving to think that these objects, now obsolete, lived through the bombings with their owners. Like them, they were well acquainted with war…
At the same time, propaganda and the personality cult built around Marshal Petain can be seen everywhere (in school curricula, such lessons became practically omnipresent, with posters from the “Commissariat général à la famille” (General Commission for families) glorifying the triptych “Travail – Famille – Patrie” (Work – Family – Homeland)
Did you know?
Some mountains were renamed after Marshal Pétain, and the bust of Marianne was replaced by a military portrait of him.
Restricted daily life and ways to adapt
Hardship inspires inventiveness.
Requisitioned for the war effort, fuel, clothing, and raw materials were scarce. Fabrics and leather disappeared from circulation and imitations, such as trousers made from wood fibres, replaced them. This period was also the birth of tutorials and DIY, for example, recipes for dishes made from vegetable peel or tutorials on how to cook without meat.
Our passionate guide draws our attention to the manufacturing of objects each more inventive than the last: a giant necklace of corks used as an inner tube, the gas generator engine ( predecessor of the hybrid engine), and more. In the next location, our guide explains the poverty caused by daily food rations and the assortment of different types of ersatz (substitutes for wood, flour, etc.)
Women used pencils to draw a line up the back of their legs to imitate a stocking seam. The illusion worked perfectly – as long as it didn’t rain!
The Hell of War and Liberation
The further we venture, the more we uncover the dark nature of the conflict. With a liberal amount of war images and symbols, the dark ideas of the enemy attempt to dominate, with a culture of hatred and propaganda to blame. Here we can also discover the Maquis and the clandestine press. The story continues on the 1st floor with the deportation corridor and the organization of the resistance in Vaucluse. Before local heroes are highlighted, we must face a difficult passage, featuring the haggard faces of the deportees and all those whose lives were stolen from them. The next stage of the journey then skillfully returns to the resolution of the conflict in the department.
Did you know?
The Liberation of France was preceded by the bombing of Avignon by the allies to slow down the Germans.
Art during the war and temporary exhibitions
Wartime art and literature is displayed on the 2nd floor, where you can view, among other things, manuscripts by Picasso, Matisse and René Char.
This same floor also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, including one about the birth of the Department of Vaucluse and the French Revolution, open until September 19, 2021.
Also to discover in Fontaines-de-Vaucluse: The François Pétrarque museum-library on the left bank of the Sorgue. This location is supposedly the plot of the poet’s house in the 14th century