Louvre opens new branch in grim northern mining town
LENS (AFP) - The Louvre museum opened a new satellite branch among the slag heaps of a former mining town on Tuesday in a bid to bring high culture and visitors to one of France's poorest areas.
Greeted by a group of former miners in overalls and hardhats, President Francois Hollande inaugurated the Japanese-designed glass and polished-aluminium branch of the Louvre in the northern city of Lens.
Officials hope the museum, set to host masterpieces by Delacroix and Raphael for its first year, will help revive a region blighted by the closure of its last coal mines 20 years ago and with unemployment at a stubbornly high 16 percent.
"We know that a museum does not bring spring. But it is a sign at least of the end of winter," regional council chief Daniel Percheron said.