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Memorial of the 1902 Catastrophe

Museums in Saint-Pierre, Martinique

Memorial of the 1902 Catastrophe
Memorial of the 1902 Catastrophe
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The Memorial: more than a place of memory, an experience

The 1902 Disaster Memorial overlooks a splendid bay in the north of the island. It welcomes you in a redesigned and modernized since 2019. This museum is inseparable from the name of the volcanologist Frank A. Perret, its founder.

In 1933, the latter had already begun work on the conservation of the remains and evidence of the 1902 eruption of Mount Pelee . He had also instilled a dynamic of sharing geological and volcanic erudition, linked to this considerable drama. Indeed, on May 8, 1902, a fiery cloud had annihilated the city of Saint-Pierre and its thousands of inhabitants.

Building on this heritage, the Memorial has been revamped and offers an updated experience through its documents and objects.

Immerse yourself in the local cultural history of the inhabitants of the lively city of Saint-Pierre, once the cultural and economic capital of the island. Understand their experiences of the events, as well as the reception of this tragedy on a global scale.

In this place of remembrance, research continues, thanks in particular to the work of several Martinican associations and the assistance of the territorial archives of Martinique: these organizations have identified more than 7,000 victims, out of an estimated 30,000 victims. By visiting the Memorial, you will discover their names.

The origins of the Memorial: the Frank A. Perret Museum

When in 1929, Mount Pelee showed signs of activity, a scientist with a passion for volcanoes went promptly to the site.

His name: Frank Alvord Perret. He did not just pass through Saint-Pierre, he stayed there for several years and contributed to the history of this city, which had been destroyed a few years earlier.

Frank Alvord Perret was originally an American engineer. During a trip to Naples, he became enthusiastic about Vesuvius and decided to assist the director of the Volcano Observatory in his work. From that moment on, he embraced a career as a volcanologist.

A constant traveler, he visited several volcanoes in Italy, Hawaii, Japan, the Canaries, and of course Martinique. He soon made a name for himself through observations, photographs and monographs on his favourite subjects: Lava, magma, pitons and volcanoes. A publication was published in 1925 on Vesuvius and in 1936 on Mount Pelee.

During his years in Martinique, in the 1930s, Frank Alvord Perret established a rudimentary observatory for his research. He also took part in the excavation of the ruins of the city, still bearing the scars of the 1902 volcanic eruption.

In order to preserve the remains uncovered and to gather the documents and testimonies collected, he founded a museum of volcanology. In exchange for the bequest of his collection at his death (a bequest that he made during his lifetime), the city granted him land for this purpose. Thus, the Franck A. Perret Museum was born in 1933.

Initially conceived as a private and specialized museum, the geological and scientific aspect was prominent. Modernised in 1969 and renovated in 1988, the museum's collection has continued to grow since its foundation. The latest update of the museum in 2019 marks a new museographic orientation with a less volcanic and more cultural approach to the disaster by highlighting the experience of the Martiniquais. 

The visit

The visit is made in three stages. The first, the effervescent life of the city, before the eruption. The second, the course of the disaster. The last, the repercussions of this drama.

Like a journey through time, the permanent exhibition plunges the visitor into the heart of the events. Photographs, old films and artefacts, coupled with a sound system, offer gripping testimonies from inhabitants and survivors.

The Memorial of the 1902 disaster is a must-see and instructive museum, offering a moving tribute to the victims and a memorable experience for visitors.

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