MémoArt: rekindling the cultural connections between Savoyards and Genevans

MémoArt (Memory without borders), is a social, cultural and historical project that allows French and Swiss citizens to access thousands of documents on Geneva and Haute-Savoie via an Internet portal. MémoArt has also made residents more aware of the border theme through shows, films, memory compilations, exhibitions and educational activities. 

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The legend of the molardier, one of three live entertainment shows in the trilogy of the molardier, as part of the MémoArt cultural outreach project. © JP Héranval The legend of the molardier, one of three live entertainment shows in the trilogy of the molardier, as part of the MémoArt cultural outreach project. © JP Héranval

" The reaffirmation of a shared history and culture between Geneva and Savoie is a relevant issue in allowing each resident - whether they were born here or are a newcomer - to claim or reclaim a living space that transcends administrative boundaries. "

Coraline Crosa, Cultural Programme Manager, Ecomusée Paysalp

The French on one side, the Swiss on the other. Some live in the Haute-Savoie department, others live in the canton of Geneva. How can we bring these citizens who are separated by a border closer? By emphasizing what they have in common: a shared history and a culture. Geneva chose to join the Swiss Confederation in 1815, immediately after the ‘French period’ (1798-1814), during which the city was annexed to France.

The MémoArt (Memory without borders) project was created as part of the bicentenary celebrations. It aims to produce shared reflections on the historic links between Geneva and Haute-Savoie, and in particular, on the ‘Greater Geneva’ cross-border area. The first step was the creation of an Internet portal, memoiresansfrontieres.com.

Associating two sources of documentary wealth

This portal, which is truly a joint documentary memory of the Franco-Genevan cross-border area, allows users to access over 20 000 images from both databases. The database of the Centre d'iconographie genevoise houses collections of images and photographs from the Bibliothèque de Genève. That of the Ecomusée Paysalp has a more ethnological approach. It documents local life through photographs, postcards and letters, as well as recorded testimonies, videos and written reports concerning residents.

‘To enrich our database and that of the Geneva centre, we embarked on a major collection drive around the border, among people with postcard collections and old documents, and we recorded testimonies of elderly citizens from either side of the border,’ explains Coraline Crosa, cultural programme manager of the Ecomusée Paysalp. In addition to existing data, almost 4 000 documents have been collected, processed and made available online as part of the Mémoart project. The portal also directs visitors to the map site ge200.ch/carto/, charting Geneva's evolution over 200 years. 

Shows, films, and school visits

The second step, cultural mediation, draws on this documentary work. ‘La trilogie du molardier’, three live shows that put the spotlight on border issues between Savoie and Geneva, have welcomed over 5 300 spectators. According to Coraline Crosa, the aim is to create a social link between residents and events taking place there, so that people can become players in their territory and not just spectators.

Seven documentarians have produced ten short films on the theme of the Franco-Genevan border. These have been compiled on a DVD and shown at around ten public screenings. 300 children aged between 8 and 16 years old have been made aware of this theme thanks to educational visits to eight classes in France and six in Switzerland, which centred around the ‘My words without borders’ exhibition. French vocational secondary school students and Swiss senior citizens created and recorded slam poetry on places of memory across their respective regions. 

Four people obtained fixed-term contracts during the project. One of them, Caroline Crosa, got a permanent contract at the end of her mediation mission.

Total investment and EU funding

A total of EUR 820 461 was invested in the ‘MémoArt (Memory without borders)’ project. The European Regional Development Fund contributed EUR 300 000 under the ‘France-Switzerland’ operational programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date