Les Mémorial des Civils dans la Guerre

Parking

There is no car park for the museum, but public spaces are available nearby, including some "blue disk" spaces.

Toilets

There are well-maintained toilets available within the museum building.

Gift Shop

There is a decent-sized gift shop, with a variety of items. A good selection of books take up most of the gift shop area.

A new museum for 2016, Falaise had been without its own museum since the closure of the Musée Août 1944 in 2011 - a somewhat disapointing state of affairs given the pivotal nature of events within the Falaise-Chambois pocket towards the end of August 1944. It describes itself as "A museum dedicated to both the life and survival of the civilians during WWII. It should be remembered that 80% of Falaise was destroyed during the Battle of Normandy, and across Normandy as a whole around 20,000 civilians were killed as the Allies advanced from the Landing Beaches.

The Mémorial des Civils dans la Guerre is associated with the Mémorial de Caen and has a similar look and feel inside, with mode design and a clean, minimalistic - almost clinical - approach. Outside, the museum is a very handsome building a short distance from the impressive Château de Falaise. It is spread over several floors, with disabled access via a lift. At the main entrance there is also a ramp for wheelchairs. Unusually, the visit starts on the second floor of the building and continues downwards to the ground floor. Markings on the floor denote the route the exhibition spaces.

The displays in the various areas are generally well spaced, bright and clear with some very cleanly illustrated maps and infographics. Some of the large photos and info panels are on large backlit displays and look great. It is very much a departure from the more typical Normandy museum - with no dressed (or undressed for that matter) mannequins of any kind - with the few dioramas there are instead designed using a combination of original artefacts and large photographic reproductions. There are other cabinets and wall displays with artefacts, some of which are better lit than others. Text on displays is in both French and English, but only some panels have a further German translation.

There are audio visual displays with some very moving video interviews. There are also several interactive stations with tablets allowing visitors to delve deeper in the story. A far more analogue feature of the museum, but quite a powerful one nonetheless, are at the windows overlooking the church Église de la Trinité. Visitors can look through "portholes" which show how the scene looked during the war with the rubble and devastation, whilst other portholes are just a normal window - providing an ever-changing contemporary view of the scene.

Towards the end of the visit is an immersive film showing. In a basement area, a glass floor stands above the ruined foundations of a destroyed building. A film, called simply "The Bombings", is played. It is a very moving experience.

If we had to choose, we would prefer to visit the sadly now-closed Memorial de la Liberté Retrouvée at Quinéville, which we felt dealt wonderfully with subject of civilian life under the occupation (although the World War II Museum which replaced it retains some of its exhibits). However, even though many other museums touch on the civilian experience and suffering during the German Occupation and subsequent Battle of Normandy, Les Mémorial des Civils dans la Guerre is certainly the primary resource now.


Updated: May 2016



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