The Conservation Départementale des Musées de la Meuse (Départementale Support Service for Museums of the Meuse) was created in 1956 by the Conseil Général (Départemental Council). It was established in the former residence of Président Poincaré at Sampigny.
This service provides scientific and technical assistance to the ten museums listed as Musées de France (Museums of France) by the French Ministry of Culture, under the law of 4th January 2003. These establishments belong to local authorities: the museums of Bar-le-Duc, Commercy, Saint-Mihiel, Vaucouleurs, Verdun, Montmédy and Varennes-en-Argonne are municipal; the Musée Raymond Poincaré at Sampigny and, since 2008 the Musée Européen de la Bière (European Museum of Beer) at Stenay are départemental.
The service is involved in the areas of conservation, security, restoration and enrichment, and endorsing and promoting the collections.
They keep inventories up to date, and are progressively working towards the complete digitisation of the collections.
They carry out studies of these collections, and publish the result of this research, plan and implement museum projects (creating, renovating, and extending museums).
Finally, they also organise and circulate temporary exhibitions.
The actions of the service also relate to the necessities of developing the heritage in the territory. Thus, since 2001, the Inventaire Départemental des richesses de la France (Départemental Inventory of the Riches of France) has come within the remit of the Départementale Support Service. since 2003, the Service has also been involved with the archaeological heritage, through helping with research into developing the Gallo-Roman sites at Nasium and Senon.
The Meuse has two multi-disciplinary historical museums, at Bar-le-Duc and Verdun. Created in the 19th century, thanks to the scholarship that was prevalent at that time, these establishments have very diverse collections. They are museums of archaeology, natural history, fine arts, local history, arms, coins and popular art and traditions, all at the same time.
The other establishments are themed museums. This specialisation is the result of a policy that the Département has sought to encourage with a view to constituting a coherent network of themed museums. Museums with single or dual themes are very definitely more prevalent now, with Beer at Stenay, Sacred art at Saint-Mihiel, Joan of Arc at Vaucouleurs, President Poincaré at Sampigny, Bastien-Lepage and fortifications at Montmédy, and ceramics and ivory at Commercy.
The Départementale Service is also responsible for studying and implementing programmes of re-ordering and creating museum establishments:
- re-ordering: Montmédy (musée Jules Bastien-Lepage, 1983 then 2007), Commercy (musée de la céramique et de l'ivoire, 1997), Vaucouleurs (musée Jeanne d'Arc, 1997), Stenay (musée européen de la Bière, in 2004-2008)
- creating: Sampigny (1986), Montmédy (musée de la fortification, 1988), Saint-Mihiel (Musée d'art sacré, 1998).
So that the efforts will bear fruit in the long term, the Départementale Museum Service:
- plans and organises temporary enhibitions (the fortified churches of the Meuse, patriotic stained glass windows, 20 years of FRAM and Nasium in 2003, an exhibition on liturgical ornaments of the Meuse in 2004 and 2005 at the Musée d'Art Sacré in Saint-Mihiel, an exhibition of Japanese ivories in 2005 and 2006 at the Musée de la Céramique et de l'Ivoire in Commercy, and in 2007 the first major retrospective exhibition of the Meuse painter Jules Bastien-Lepage in Paris and in the Meuse)
- undertakes the publication of scientific works (catalogues) and informative booklets for the general public, in close co-operation with the Service Communication du Conseil Général (Départemental Council Communications Department).
The Départementale Service provides researchers and students with the following on request:
- a specialised library bringing together nearly 3,000 works and specialised reviews on art, archaeology, history and museum studies
- a photo library containing around 20,000 photos (slides, negatives, old prints, photos), which will be digitised in the years to come.