In 2003, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, the then Minister for Culture and Communication, and Henri Loyrette, president of the Musée du Louvre, announced plans to create a regional branch of the Louvre. The president of the Nord-Pas de Calais region Daniel Percheron rapidly voiced his great interest in the project and undertook to provide solid support.
Following the announcement, five towns and cities in the region, along with Amiens, capital of the neighbouring Picardy region, put together proposals to host the new museum. Following visits to the six proposed sites, particularly by the then Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the city of Lens was put forward to Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the then Prime Minister, who announced Lens as the winner on a visit to the city on November 29, 2004.
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