The museum aims to take the visitor on a journey through time. The visit starts out with the beginnings of “la protection sociale” and particularly the development of “sociétés de secours mutuels” in the 19th century, moving on to the first laws passed in the early 20th century, the introduction of the social security system from 1945 onwards, and the development of the system from 1967 up to the present day. This is illustrated by displays featuring hundreds of archive items and documents.
Highlights on the tour include a surprising mock-up of a social security centre as it looked in the 1950s and 1960s, complete with authentic props such as vintage typewriters, telephones, switchboards and rubber stamps. It is tempting to role-play the part of a member of the public meeting staff, filing paperwork and then shuffling over to the counter to obtain the much-desired financial compensation!
Some of the museum’s more bizarre exhibits include ghostly mannequins sporting designer uniforms, symbolising a policy aimed at “humanising” the institution, making it more welcoming and appealing to the general public. Appropriately enough, the mannequins have been positioned at the entrance to the visit.
As well as a visitor booklet, a high-tech audio-guide is available free of charge at reception, to add a further dimension to the tour. The descriptive narration is coupled with authentic eye-witness testimonials by CPAM staff.
The museum does feel like a well-kept secret; it currently welcomes around 1,600 visitors annually. Its niche appeal is undeniable but there is definitely an audience out there. To reach prospective visitors, director Emmanuelle Saujeon-Roque is developing the museum’s presence on the internet, with an extensive website (featuring videos, a snazzy virtual visit and a host of interactive features) and a Facebook page. The added exposure should deservedly draw new visitors to this unique museum.
- Find it: Château des Lauriers, 10 Route de Carbon-Blanc, Lormont.
- The museum is open to the general public from Monday to Friday, 2pm-6pm (5pm on Fridays). Admission is free of charge.
- Museum website: www.musee-assurance-maladie.fr
- And Facebook page.