In the old treasury lies another treasure that the inhabitants will soon be able to discover: that of their history, that of the collective memory, in the form of a new Beausoleil History Centre. Here, the town hall decided to install its archives here. Exhibitions, educational workshops, screenings: Catherine Veran, head of the municipal archives, intends to take advantage of all the logistical and technical possibilities offered here to bring to life the memories entrusted to her by the Beausoleil residents. Behind the façade, there is a large multipurpose room with screen and projector which will welcome visitors. In the background, hidden behind a heavy armoured door, in a controlled atmosphere, rest the jewels of the city. There are of course topographic maps, photographs, documents of all kinds, but not only that: “Since there is no museum in Beausoleil, here we have flags, carnival banners, and even a siphon bottle with the name of the city written on it”, explained the curator of the locale. The municipality bought a few items, but the funds came mainly from private collections, which people offer to their fellow citizens. Because their city is dear to their heart.
A fate linked to Monaco
Jeanne Argenta, 85, was born here in the Tonkin neighbourhood and still lives in the house where she opened her eyes for the first time: “I have always lived here. I left a little for work, but I quickly came back. I love my city too much.” Even though her memory sometimes fogs, she still remembers the carnivals, with the small tanks, and Sundays at the Lux cinema or at the municipal casino with her father. From that period, she still has some photos that she confided willingly to the municipal archives. Sepia memories of a modest life here and in Monaco, like many inhabitants.
For it is the Principality that indirectly gave birth to Beausoleil. When Camille Blanc was commissioned by Charles III to build the casino complex with its hotels, which would become the Société des Bains de Mer (SBM), he brought in skilled workers from Italy, who settled at the border, in Territory of la Turbie. “This part of the city has changed very quickly; There were many people in high concentration, while la Turbie was rural. Then Camille Blanc was elected mayor, and began the process of separation of that part of the city that became Beausoleil,” said the inexhaustible Catherine Veran.
Gérard Laurent came here out of love for the woman he married fifty years ago, and who is also a descendant of Italians: “The whole district of Tonkin was full of immigrants. Besides, it’s called that because a soldier who came back from what was then Indochina found that all the life, all this activity, reminded him of Tonkin. It was a neighbourhood teeming with the sounds of children. The spirit of Tonkin was: no colour, no race, no religion,” he explained.
The love of history
This former lifeguard has caught the history bug and devotes a large part of his free time to the memory of his city. With Catherine Veran, he sometimes turns into a detective: yesterday they were looking together to guess the location of the boutique that appears on a photo. The investigation is going to be long, because there are few details. Maybe in the archives will they find invoices in the name of this company? “Any document may be of interest to us. Without the gifts of individuals, we would not exist. Donations, or loans, have been excellent because we can digitise the documents and make them available. One can even accept donations with restriction, to make them public in the future. Everything is conceivable,” explained Catherine Veran.
A project made all the more possible as the city is very young (barely 113 years), and as certain pillars of the municipality are still alive to tell their story. To tell young people where they come from, tell them that others have lived through the same things as they have in the recent past, so that they know where they are headed. The Beausoleil History Centre allows for a continuation of this collective memory in the future.
Photo credit to www.monacomatin.mc and capfrandos.free.fr