The Association du Souvenir de Ferdinand de Lesseps et du Canal de Suez was founded in 1978 on the initiative of Jacques Georges-Picot, the last General Manager of Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Suez Canal Company) before being chairman of Compagnie Financière de Suez.
Mr Georges-Picot basically thought that it was no more the task of Cie Financière de Suez (Suez Financial Company) to perpetuate the memory of Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Suez canal.
If left untended, this memory would have become an increasingly distant myth, until one day it would vanish. Hence the need to create an organisation to handle the material and intellectual legacy of the history of the Suez Canal Company and its creator.
First there was the material legacy. The Association is the de facto and de jure owner of the archives of the Suez Canal Company which were accumulated over a period of 100 years from its founding up to 1956.
A large collection of paintings, statues and models, documents, letters and souvenirs was added to these archives.
There is also the intellectual legacy: The Association's core mission is clearly to keep the memory of Ferdinand de Lesseps and of the Suez Canal alive. If the day comes when manking is no longer conscious of the high points of their history and what their genius archieved, then the material evidence they left behind will be completely forgotten.
The Association's activities have gone through a series of complementary phases in keeping with the original plan of its creator.
The first phase was an organisational one, with steps taken to ensure the preservation of the heritage, making it accessible to researchers, to historians and to everyone interested in the work of Ferdinand de Lesseps and the Company.
Accordingly, the French National Archives (Archives Nationales) provided a home for the archives in Fontainebleau and later in Roubaix at the "Centre National du Monde du Travail".
The Association then signed an agreement with Fondation de France which would become the legal owner of the heritage although the Association will continue to manage it as long as it fulfils its objectives.
However, it was clear that the work of Ferdinand de Lesseps was not the only field of historians : the Canal is really in operation in Egypt and, as its creator had wished, it is still welcoming ships every day from all around the world.
The best souvenir Ferdinand de Lesseps could leave is the canal itself operational and alive. Far better than any archive document or engraving, the canal itself is the best physical reminder of the major project undertaken in the Suez isthmus.
It also became clear that the canal was, above all, a Franco-Egyptian realisation and that consequently, in spite of old disputes which no longer seem important, the Canal remained a tangible link between both countries. It was under these conditions that close relations were established with the Suez Canal Authority. The Association holds every yeaur a meeting of its Board of Directors in Ismailia, is welcome in the "Résidence" and is involved in a project to create a Canal Museum in Ismaïlia.
In Paris too, links have been permanently reinforced between the Association and the Egyptian Ambassador and his Cultural Office.
For several years now, a programme has been initiated to digitalise the Association's archives, in order to make them accessible in Egypt too. The prestigious Bibliotheca Alexandrina now contains a "Suez Collection". With the help and co-operation of the Association, a librarian from the Bibliotheca Alexandrina travels to France every year to study at the Archives de France in Roubaix. In 2000 at last, the Bibliotheca Alexandrina organised a seminar entitled "From the Inauguration of the Suez Canal to the Inauguration of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina" which, under the auspices of the Suez Canal Authority and the Association, brought together experts from several countries, including Egypt and France.
The Association is responsible for keeping the memory of the Canal alive but for keeping as well the memory of Ferdinand de Lesseps alive - and Ferdinand de Lesseps also has strong links to Panama.
Of course, the Panama story is far less glorious and in France evocative of a scandal with which Lesseps is invariably associated, even though he was not personally responsible for it.
At least that is the case in France, while in Panama de Lesseps is still regarded as a great man, ("'the Great Frenchman"), to whom Panama owes its canal. The Association is duty-bound to maintain a presence in Panama and also to make well known in France, f the esteem in which de Lesseps is held in Panama.
Panama's rightful recognition of Lesseps' enterprise is undoubtedly a powerful antidote to the low opinion that the French people have of his work in Central America.
Conférence : "Il y a 150, le Canal de Suez"
27 February 2020
Par le Contre-Amiral François BELLEC
Colloque : "Le Canal de Suez, lieu de mémoires"
13 November 2019
Forum économique France-Égypte
18 March 2019
ETI/PME/PMI : un avenir prometteur
Les imaginaires du Canal de Suez : Représentations littéraires et culturelles (1858-1975)
04 November 2018
Colloque à l'université du Caire, 4-6 novembre 2018
Ce colloque international et interdisciplinaire traitera des représentations littéraires et culturelles du canal de Suez entre 1858 et 1975.
Ouvert à tous, les frais d'inscription sont de 100€.
Hélène Braeuner et Arnaud Ramière de Fortanier y partagerons leur communication.
26 October 2018
au musée de Louvain, du 26/10/2018 au 20/01/2019
Le musée de Louvain a imaginé retracer l'importance de l'histoire de cette maison princière par une exposition. Une partie sera dédiée à sa puissance économique. L'histoire du canal de Suez y a sa place par la présence du Prince Pierre Auguste d'Arenberg, président de la Compagnie universelle du canal maritime de Suez. (1896-1913)
L'association prête à cette occasion un tableau de ses collections: François Barry, le chantier N°5, vue du canal de Suez.
"Canal de Suez : chantier de l'extrême"
26 January 2017
Documentaire réalisé par Johanna Gauterie, avec l'aide de l'Association Lesseps Suez, diffusé le jeudi 26 janvier 2017 à 20H50 sur RMC Découverte (canal 24).
Visite du président Hollande en Egypte
17 April 2016
Le projet d'exposition sur le canal de Suez à l'Institut du Monde Arabe à Paris pour 2018
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