The chateau de Joux is an exceptional and unique historic monument, witness to 1,000 years of fortification and an important memorial to the emancipation of peoples around the world.

Aware of its exceptional nature,  the Grand Pontarlier District Council who owns and manages the site, has launched a programme to showcase the scientific, tourist and cultural value of this unique historic monument. This programme will cover a period of 10 years, from 2020 to 2030, and will focus on two historical themes: the evolution of the fortress and the struggle for freedoms. These themes will be integrated into the development of the site, the cultural and events programme, and the scientific policy.


The main aims of the programme will be to showcase the history of the fort, the borders and the struggle for freedom; to develop a collaborative cultural agenda, open to contemporary works, aimed at all types of audiences; to preserve and enrich the cultural heritage and collections of national and regional relevance.

It includes the restoration of the castle as well as opening up spaces not currently accessible by the public. Also planned are three museums within the confines of the castle. The first, a space presenting the theme of “fortress and freedoms”, explaining the different stages of the building of the castle, from the Middle Ages up to the 19thC. The second, a museum of military art and history, will exhibit an exceptional collection of weapons, headgear, military equipment and paintings from 1717 to 1917. Finally, the third museum will be dedicated to the theme of freedoms, of emancipation and the Carribean and African works of art about the memory of Toussaint Louverture.

This programme received full support from the Director of cultural heritage at the Ministry of Culture in May 2019.

Developped over a ten year period (2020 – 2030), it will cost in the region of 30 million euros, part of which will come from public funding. In order to fully achieve its goals, the programme will also need funding from donations, sponsors and partnerships.


The exhibitions space “Fortress and freedoms” is designed as an introduction to the visitor, as a way of presenting an overview of the site. A 3D map, plans from the 17thC to the 20thC, a tactile model, graphic presentations, paintings… will all allow the visitor to discover the evolution of the castle’s architecture, the different stages of construction, its adaptation to the development of new weapons and military tactics.

The collections will also showcase the perception of the castle in collective memory: from medieval fortified castle to military stronghold, from fairytale castle to historic monument. Finally, they will also shine light on the handful of prisoners held at the castle and who have marked the history of the struggle for freedom, such as Mirabeau and Toussaint Louverture. The restored gunpowder room in the 5th defensive ring will allow for these collections to be housed in appropriate conditions.


The collection of military art and history belonging to the chateau de Joux is classed as 3rd best in the world. It includes a range of weapons and uniforms from 1717 to 1917, some of which are major items: the first regulation firearm from 1717, headgear and weapons of the Imperial Guard of Napoleon 1st and of the elite cavalry squadron of Cent-Gardes of Napoleon III, headgear from the musketeers of the Restoration…

Built up from items collected by Jules-Constant Doresse, director of the Courbevoie Arts and Crafts school, from 1910 to 1935, it was acquired by the Pontarlier Syndicat to be exhibited at the chateau de Joux in 1957. In 2015, the entire collection of weapons and uniforms were moved as an emergency measure to the Pontarlier Museum for reasons of conservation. Since then the collection is protected under the auspices of the “French Museumns”. The Pontarlier museum has taken responsibility for the restoration, conservation, management and promotion of the collection, pending its return to the chateau.

In 2016, an initial preparatory exhibition “Two Comtois in Napoleon’s Guard” recounts the life of two soldiers from the Franche-Comté enrolled in the revolutionary army in 1792, and who made their way up through the military ranks to become part of the prestigious imperial guard. The second preparatory exhibition,  programmed for 2021, will commemorate 150 years since the retreat of the Eastern forces of General Bourbaki at the end of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871.

These exhibitions encourage the public to rediscover the collections of military art and history during the construction of the new museum, which will be innovative, interactive and open to all, in the Vauban barracks at the castle. This new museum will immerse the visitor in the art of war, its actors and interests from the 18thC to the beginning of the 20thC, and in the garrison life at the castle, a mountain border-stronghold. Two important events will provide the opportunity to establish strong links with Swiss museums: the sieges of the chateau de Joux by the Swiss in 1475 and 1815, and the retreat by the “Armée de l’Est” (Army of the East) in Switzerland in 1871.


As the final resting place of Toussaint Louverture, the chateau de Joux is a memorial to the struggle for the abolition of slavery. In this context, it has forged links with the Haïtian community.

In 1992, for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, the organisation Afrique en Création, curated by Jean-Marie Drot. After traveling around the world, commissioned 75 paintings to tell the story of their island. After traveling around the world, these 75 paintings were donated in 2016 to the Grand Pontarlier District Council for the chateau de Joux.

They will be exhibited at the heart of the chateau in the inner fort close to the cell  where Toussaint Louverture was emprisoned. They will provide a lively and contemporary view of Haïtian art and the struggle by Toussaint Louverture for the emancipation of his people, of all slaves and of people living under colonial rule. Temporary exhibitions by contemporary artists will showcase art from the Caribbean and from Africa.


The works programmed include:

  • The restoration of the historic monument and its surroundings, an area where the future Museums, cultural spaces and events (250 rooms in a total of 2 hectares of buildings
  • The installation of a self-guided tour around the entire chateau
  • Improvements to the circulation areas, accessibility and the surrounding area are a high priority
  • Making the site safe
  • Promotion of the site via a digital visit (web app, freely accessible to all with audio-described content, sub-titling, easy read).
  • The design of the three museographic spaces and their experience:
    1. A presentation area for hill architecture and border fortification
    2. A museum for military art and history
    3. A museum for Haïtian art and an area dedicated to the life and work of Toussaint Louverture
  • Adapting the rooms to improve the conditions for preserving and presenting the collections
  • The design and development of educational materials
  • The restoration, preservation and conservation of the collections (1300 items including weapons, uniforms, military models and equipment, more than 70 Haïtian paintings… with a view to their presentation to the public)
  • The continuation and renewal of a programme of cultural and educational activities, including:
    1. The design of reception areas and a separate area for schoold and public activities
    2. Temporary exhibitions
    3. The design and presentation of cultural and artistic seasons open to contemporary design, to families and to a youth public: Festival of the Nights of Joux, concerts, dramatised night visits…
  • The « eco design » of all the site’s facilities, to make it a low-energy, responsible and sustainable “citizen’s” cultural centre
    1. Accessible, « easy to read » and understand for members of the public with physical and sensorial handicaps
    2. Green spaces and appropriate parking areas
    3. Water treatment and management
    4. Design and availability of areas that can be “privatised” for non-profit organisations

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