Memorialdelacastrophede1902 13museefranckaperret Saint Pierre MartiniqueMemorialdelacastrophede1902 13museefranckaperret Saint Pierre Martinique
©Memorialdelacastrophede1902 13museefranckaperret Saint Pierre Martinique|MDES
Memorial to the 1902 disasterFranck A. Perret MuseumSaint-Pierre after the eruption of Montagne Pelée

Visit to the 1902 Disaster Memorial – Franck A. Perret Museum

When I go to Saint-Pierre, I like to wander the city streets to discover the many vestiges of the former “Little Paris of the West Indies”: the cathedral, the ruins of the theater, those of the prison… Today I end my visit with the musée Franck Perret, which offers a moving dive into the events that led to the devastating eruption of Mount Pelée on May 8, 1902 and the complete destruction of the city of Saint-Pierre.

It’s a human-sized museum, very rich in objects, documents and testimonies…

An exceptional site

At the foot of Mount Pelée

The museum is located on the exceptional site of the former Esnotz battery, which dominates the town and opens onto the wide panorama of Saint-Pierre Bay dominated by the Mount Pelée. Founded in 1933 by vulcanologist Frank A. Perret – who witnessed the second sequence of eruptions in 1929 – it is the oldest museum in Martinique. This Musée de France is dedicated to the eruption of Mount Pelée, emphasizing a cultural approach to the catastrophe, highlighting the experience lived by the people of Martinique and its worldwide repercussions. The new Mémorial de la Catastrophe de 1902 – Musée Frank A.Perret opened its doors on May 8, 2019 in Saint-Pierre after a complete renovation.

As soon as I arrive at the museum, I’m struck by its impressive architecture. The building itself is a mix of modern elements and remnants of the ancient destroyed city, creating an atmosphere that is both poignant and revealing. The sober, elegant building, with its clean contemporary lines, was designed by architect Olivier Compère. The black facade of burnt wood with silver flashes stands out against the blue of the Caribbean Sea. This Japanese technique of burning wood, Shu sugi ban, echoes the tragic history of Saint-Pierre. The Mémorial de la catastrophe de 1902 – Musée Frank A. Perret is a museum of the City of Saint-Pierre managed by the Fondation Clément. I feel a certain solemnity as I pass through the doors and enter this place steeped in history.

At reception, you’re handed audio-guides for a self-guided tour that immerses you in the history and life of the Pierrotins. You’ll also discover information about each object on display (there are over 400!). All audio guides, descriptions and info are also available on the app Smartify.

Allocate 1 short hour for this tour.

Three routes are offered: “family” route, “story” route, “learn more” route.

Permanent exhibitions

The permanent exhibits at the Franck Perret Museum are extremely well designed and documented. I start with the room that explores the period before the eruption, when Saint-Pierre was a prosperous, bustling city, nicknamed “the Little Paris of the West Indies”. Period photographs and everyday objects are on display, giving a vivid idea of life in this thriving city.

As I move on, I’m impressed by the room dedicated to the eruption itself. The images and stories presented here are gripping. There are photographs captured shortly before the catastrophe, showing the Montagne Pelée smoking and the warning signs of the impending eruption. Moving testimonies from survivors and eyewitnesses are brought together, bringing to life the horror and panic felt at the time….

You can see objects deformed, melted or agglomerated by the intense heat, such as the bronze bell from the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Centre, the grate from the Cyparis dungeon or objects from the archeological excavations carried out in Saint-Pierre in recent years.

For me, the highlight of the visit is the memorial space dedicated to the victims of the disaster. Names of the deceased are displayed, creating a personal connection with those who lost their lives that day. You get a sense of the scale of the tragedy and the suffering the people of Saint-Pierre endured.

As I explore the various exhibits, I learn more about the repercussions of the 1902 eruption. The town of Saint-Pierre was totally devastated; it took years to rebuild and regain a sense of normalcy. The museum also addresses the scientific consequences of this catastrophe, including advances in the field of volcanology thanks to the research of Franck Perret himself.

Read more

In addition to the permanent exhibitions, the museum also offers conferences and film screenings that delve in depth into the various aspects of the disaster, during which experts share their knowledge and answer visitors’ questions. It’s a unique opportunity to learn more about the latest scientific findings and discuss the lessons learned from this tragedy.

Tips

Don’t leave Saint-Pierre without visiting this museum! It’s a very well-designed, thought-provoking place that reminds us of the importance of vigilance in the face of powerful natural phenomena.

! 2023 Summer holidays !

To mark the commemoration of May 8, the museum is exhibiting until August 31 a pistol that belonged to the Gendarmerie Captain who disappeared in the disaster, on loan from the Musée de la Gendarmerie Nationale.

Go ahead from us!

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