With no less than four museums in the city centre and a cultural centre in Tina, the city offers an eclectic range of discovery and culture. A fifth museum should be added to this offering, the galleys museum in Nouville, but it has not opened yet.
A city of museums
The City Museum, on Place des Cocotiers, has been enriched with a new space dedicated to the First World War. This echoes the new Museum of World War II, which is based in a building shaped like a half-moon, inherited from the Americans who turned New Caledonia into a rear base during the war. At the port, the Maritime Museum traces the rich history of the Pacific, as well as the journey of La Pérouse.
Finally, the New Caledonia Museum is a treasure for those interested in the culture, traditions and mysteries of the Melanesian world, especially the Kanak culture. The museum also offers a remarkable collection of Oceanic objects, from West Papua to Eastern Polynesia.
The New Caledonia Museum
Built at the beginning of the 1970s, today’s museum of New Caledonia inherited collections of Kanak and Oceanian art, collected along the years since the first cabinets of curiosities at the end of the 19th century.
This museum displays one of the most magnificent collections of Kanak art in the world. It also shows a remarkable collection of Oceanian objects which invite the visitors to become aware of the extreme richness of South Pacific cultures, from Western Papua to Eastern Polynesia.
The City Museum
The City Museum is inside a historic building. Built in 1874, it was originally the location of the first bank in New Caledonia. After it went bankrupt, the Nouméa municipality acquired the building and turned it into the city's provisional town hall. It remained so “provisionally” until 1975!
This beautiful little museum will allow the visitor to grasp a sense of Nouméa's past. Besides the permanent exhibition dedicated to different time periods of Nouméa's history, temporary exhibitions are also regularly held. In the backyard of the museum, don't miss out on the botanical garden and its rare essences.
The Maritime Museum of New Caledonia
Oriented towards the ocean, Nouméa simply had to build a Maritime Museum. Since 1999 it became reality, and a recent extension in 2013 with modern museography further enhances the value and richness of the Caledonian collections.
From the extraordinary voyage of “La Pérouse” in the 18th century to the history of the marine traffic between Caledonia and the rest of the world, the museum offers a journey of discovery. Beautiful reconstitutions also allow visitors to get familiar with two of the largest ore transport sailing ships in the world, the France 2 and the Roanoke.
The Second World War Museum
The latest museum in Nouméa, the Second World War Museum, can be surprising to anyone unaware of local history. Although New Caledonia was lucky not to have taken part in the battles of the bloodiest conflict of the 20th century, it nonetheless played an essential role during World War II. From 1942 to 1945, almost a million soldiers from the allied forces (Americans, Australians and New-Zealanders) stayed on the territory, which was turned into a giant airbase.
The museum, housed in one of the half-moons given by the US troops as they left, presents this period on two levels, showing how it was experienced by New Caledonians. It also allows to better understand how the American presence completely changed the territory. After the war, some Caledonians even expressed the wish to become the 51st State of the U.S.A.! An offer which was diplomatically declined by Washington.