Cité Nationale de l'histoire de l'immigation

National Museum of Immigration History or  Cité Nationale de l'histoire de l'immigation in the Palais de la Porte Dorée is an interesting place - though I should note that all the signage in the museum is currently in French. It's fascinating to see a museum celebrating the diverse history of immigration set in a building original built to house the Colonial Exhibition of 1931. It's a wonderful re-appropriation and re-designation of the space, a sort of defiant reclaiming of history. 
However, in many ways the museum has a temporary feel to it. Without any main door the ticket taker waits at the bottom of  a staircase and the exhibits (while very interesting) feel as if they could be packed up and put away without too much bother. This doesn't speak to the content of the materials which are comprehensive and well displayed, but given the marginal place of many immigrants in France the fact that even the permanent exhibits at a new museum of immigration seems temporary evokes an uncomfortable sentiment. I'm sure this has something to do with the financial constraints they were under as well as the difficulties of working in an historic building. This is not a criticism of the curators, no doubt they have done an excellent job with the facilities, materials and budget available.

Overall the stress is on telling the multiple tales of immigrants seeking work and a better life in France.  Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century, they coming from Spain, Italy and Portugal, while Jewish refugees came to France fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe while Sephardic Jews left north Africa after the Second World War. The museum touches on those fleeing the upheaval of wars including Vietnamese refugees and earlier waves of migrants from the Spanish civil war and the Russian revolution. There's a focus on colonial subjects from the Maghreb coming to France seeking  work after the war and later streams of migrants coming from ex-French colonies in Africa. Overall you leave the exhibit with a sense for the diversity of immigrant communities in France and the similar barriers they have faced as well as the contribution made to France by  those of foreign heritage including Chopin, Apollinaire, Man Ray, Derrida, Charles Aznevour, Yannick Noah and many others.

We enjoyed the temporary exhibit on Algerian immigrants to France between 1954 and 1962 which included lots of photos and interviews. We didn't know a lot about the topic and were fascinated to read about the degree of police surveillance and repression of Algerian immigrants.

The museum makes a lot of use of audio visual material and is well prepared for educational groups, see below. 

There are a lot of art installations and photographs along with the historical materials. This series of bunks and the ubiquitous plaid bags invoke the shared and generic struggles of immigrant to find shelter and to make homes in cramped and often dangerous circumstances.