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Tourists groan as Musée d’Orsay strike continues

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-10-27

Tourists’ groans of annoyance, along with a few expressions of solidarity, could be heard outside Paris's Musée d'Orsay on Tuesday, closed by a workers’ strike for a sixth consecutive day.

Groans of aggravation, sighs of disappointment, and mutterings in various languages could be heard outside Paris's Musée d'Orsay Tuesday, as tourists arrived to find the newly-renovated museum closed for a sixth day.

The museum’s workers, who are demanding 20 additional staff to oversee the now-larger exhibition space, have been on strike since last Thursday.

As the workers met behind closed doors to decide whether to extend the strike, throngs of would-be art-viewers milled in front of the entrance, reading signs informing visitors of the strike, snapping photos of the 200-year-old former railway station that houses the museum, and consulting maps to decide where to go next.

Cathy and Karen from California.

Karen and Cathy, sisters from Southern California, were determined to see some Monet and settled on the Musée de Marmottan – but not before venting their frustration. “We built this trip around the Musée d’Orsay, it’s the main thing we wanted to see,” a visibly disappointed Karen said. “We’ve been back here every day to see if it’s open.”

She also admitted that she had thought frequent strikes were more typical of the Italians than the French.

‘They should think about the tourists’

But despite France’s deeply entrenched tradition of unions striking, there were handfuls of French tourists adding their voices to the growing chorus of discontent. Véronique said that she had brought her young son all the way from Nice to see the Musée d’Orsay, and that she was sad he wouldn’t get to go inside, even if she imagined that “they’re not on strike for nothing”.

Her husband, Marc, was less sympathetic. “They should think about all the tourists who come,” he grumbled.

Tourists read the "Closed" signs.

One such tourist, Darren from England, explained that he and his family come to Paris mainly for the museums. “Especially given the economic environment, I can’t see how this will help France,” he said. “People will stop coming if everything is closed all the time.”

Paris reigns supreme as the world’s most visited city, and the Musée d’Orsay alone draws roughly three million visitors per year. Many who showed up Tuesday were especially eager to see Renoir or Degas masterpieces in the twenty-five-year-old museum’s lavishly revamped exhibition area (renovations cost 27.6 million dollars), which includes four new stories, and 2,000 extra square metres of hanging space.

Support in unlikely places

Daniel from Israel.

Nevertheless, there were also words of support for the workers on strike. Daniel, an Israeli student on vacation, said he was “both annoyed and sympathetic”. “There’s something to admire in this notion of citizens taking matters into their own hands,” he said. “It’s more easily done in France than in Israel.”

But the deepest sympathy for the museum workers on strike came, perhaps predictably, from a tourist who herself works at a museum. Jane, from Hawaii, who has a job at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, said that she while she would have liked to see the art, she was also “happy for the workers”.

Jane’s friend Tammy, also from Hawaii, was irritated at having come “halfway around the world to find this closed”. But Jane begged to differ. “There are plenty of reasons to strike when you work at a museum, but very few of us in the States do it. It’s inspiring,” she said, before adding with a grin: “Maybe when I get home, I’ll go on strike, too.”

Date created : 2011-10-25