Inauguration of Arquus’ Heritage Conservatory

Created a year ago, the ARQUUS Fund for Heritage inaugurates the ARQUUS Conservatory on June 17 in Garchizy (Nièvre). The aim of this Conservatory is to inventory, list, contextualise, highlight and present the objects, documents and vehicles that make up the history of Arquus or the historic brands that are part of the company's heritage.

This Conservatory already brings together more than 70 military vehicles from the ARQUUS collections, but also from donations and very promising partnerships.

On 17 June, at 11 a.m., Emmanuel LEVACHER, President, ARQUUS, will receive numerous personalities from the civilian and military worlds on the site of the Conservatoire des Trois Glorieuses, at Arquus’ Centre of Expertise for Logistics and Welding in Garchizy. This Heritage Conservatory was created by the ARQUUS Heritage Department as part of a vast project to cultivate the roots of the Group and its most prestigious historical brands, Panhard, Renault, Berliet, ACMAT, Auverland and many others.

The Conservatory is fed by Arquus' current industrial sites: Marolles-en-Hurepoix, the historic site of Panhard, with in particular the AML, EBR, VBL; Saint-Nazaire, the historic site of ACMAT with the VLRA; Limoges, a production site for military engines since the 1930s, then a production site in particular for the VAB and GBC180 of the French Army. It is fed by foundations, museums, but also private collectors.

The challenge is to gather post-World War II vehicles, in service or not in the French and foreign armed forces, such as the EBR, the AML, the VAB or the GBC 8KT truck. In a second phase, the Conservatoire set itself the objective of searching for older vehicles, wheeled or tracked, belonging to its historical heritage.

Some of these vehicles, belonging to the Musée des Blindés, will be presented on 17 June in front of the Conservatoire's premises, such as the FT, the 1918 Victory tank, the Somua tank, the Renault UE35 caterpillar or the B1Bis tank.

An ARQUUS Heritage Endowment Fund has been created in order to collect funds, legacies or donations under the law on patronage (1983) in order to support the ARQUUS approach to the benefit of heritage. It is in this capacity that the Conservatory was able to carry out fitting-out work for the exhibition on 17 June, and to receive donations and loans of vehicles which were lacking in its collection.

The Conservatoire already houses a dozen vehicles from the Musée des Blindés (Saumur) made available by the French Army, the Paul Legueu collection, donated by the family of the founder of ACMAT, and a VLRA made available by Mr. Fortin, a private collector. Two turrets, the Mistral turret donated by MBDA and the 25 mm turret donated by John Cockerill join the collection on a LAV and the CRAB respectively.

The oldest vehicle in the exhibition is a 1916 Berliet CBA, donated by the Berliet Foundation, as well as a GBC 8KT from its Conservatoire in Montellier. This inauguration is an opportunity to present an exhibition by the Association Renault-Histoire, devoted to the life of the Renault factories in Boulogne Billancourt during the First World War.

This Conservatory will now be open by appointment, pending a future evolution towards a public reception in the years to come.

Interview with Grégoire Verdon, Secretary General of the Conservatory

Secretary General of the Endowment Fund, Grégoire VERDON is Director of CSR and Heritage of ARQUUS. President LEVACHER entrusted him with the creation of a conservatory in early 2020. One project, three questions. Why did ARQUUS decide to create this Conservatory?

We were already concerned about cultivating the memory of a prestigious family tree, and we started to write the 100-year history of ARQUUS, both in books and in comics. But for years we all found it regrettable that we could not devote enough time to the conservation of vehicles that we had in our car parks and that were deteriorating there.

They are signs or stages in the industrial history of Land Defence and above all they are the testimony of millions of hours of thought and work by all our collaborators. It was time to save this treasure and the decision to create this Conservatory was obvious.

What is your strategy for the coming years?

This strategy is extremely simple: it consists, in the first stage, of "saving what exists", by giving shelter to these vehicles which were abandoned and awaiting the sad fate of being scrapped. To do this, we decided to dedicate a space, the Trois Glorieuses, to vehicles that bear witness to our recent history, the post-World War II era. Thanks to solid partnerships and private initiatives, we have been able to enrich this period 1945-2020 in an efficient way, even if we are still far from being exhaustive.

In a second phase, while starting the restoration of some vehicles, we will start looking for vehicles from the previous period, 1918 to 1945. This is an extremely rich period. It is nevertheless a real challenge. In the short or medium term, we will open the Conservatory to the public, which presupposes on the one hand an educational effort and on the other hand a meticulous preparation of the reception and the transformation of this entity into an establishment receiving the public (ERP).

How do you involve ARQUUS employees in this adventure?

It is indeed essential to involve them in this adventure because it is an ARQUUS project that can federate many enthusiasts and their innumerable skills. There are many possibilities: the restoration of vehicles, which will require many hours of volunteer work. We are thinking about creating associations on all our industrial or tertiary sites as soon as possible. There is also the manufacture of models or dioramas, the exploitation of archives, communication, all areas in which the contribution of our employees' knowledge is extremely valuable.

The Endowment Fund of Arquus’ Heritage Foundation

The Arquus Heritage Foundation is supported by an Endowment Fund, governed by the law n° 2008-776 of 4 August 2008 on the modernization of the economy and by the decree n° 2009-158 of 11 February 2009.

The Arquus Heritage Fund receives patronage funds supports the creation and development of the heritage conservatory carries of general interest conserves Arquus-related brands.

The objective of the ARQUUS Endowment Fund is to safeguard and promote the cultural and industrial heritage of French military vehicles produced from the end of the 19th century to the present day, with the aim of preserving this historical heritage for cultural, educational and other purposes. With its cultural, historical and scientific vocation, it contributes to the knowledge and study of war material.

The Endowment Fund finances acquisitions, structures and all the actions necessary for this commitment. It implements all the means it deems appropriate to meet this objective, and in particular:

– The acquisition, management and provision of the necessary movable and immovable assets;

– The acquisition, management and provision of human and technical resources in accordance with its purpose;

– The collection of funds by all legal means aimed at promoting the development of the Fund's purpose;

– The acquisition, conservation and restoration of vehicles, spare parts, machine tools, models, relevant documents;

– The preservation of the memories of men and of the intangible heritage by interviewing the men and women who have been or are part of the cultural and industrial heritage of the French military vehicle;

– The exhibition and making available to the public of the material that makes up the cultural and industrial heritage of the French military vehicle;

– The organization of educational and pedagogical actions aimed at pupils and students;

– The organization of scientific events (colloquia, conferences);

– The editing and publication of thematic files, studies and testimonies;

– The communication of its actions through any appropriate medium.

Within the framework of its object, the Endowment Fund therefore supports any project of general interest carried out by any other entity contributing to the preservation and enhancement of the cultural and industrial heritage relating to French military vehicles.

The head office of the Foundation is located at 15 bis Allée des Marronniers – Camp de Satory – 78000 Versailles – France.

The office of its Board of Directors is composed of a President, a Secretary General and a Treasurer. It is chaired by Emmanuel Levacher, President of Arquus. It is supported by a scientific council and a college of representatives from each of the Arquus sites.


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