In 17 days last month, 1,670 people viewed a traveling exhibit, "Family and Genealogy," that toured the Rouen District of the France Paris Mission.
"The subject of genealogy has a great interest in our country and information pertaining to it is very much in demand," said Joelle Janowski of the Church's regional public communications office in France.She said missionaries and members placed 29 copies of the Book of Mormon, and missionaries received 14 referrals. Eighteen newspaper articles - all with positive information about the Church and its family history efforts - were published, reaching a potential of 925,200 readers.
The exhibit, with 13 boards, or panels, covering various phases of family history and research was prepared in French by the Church's regional public communications office in Paris. The exhibit is available for tours in France, Belgium and Switzerland. French cities in which the exhibit recently appeared were Caen, Lisieux, Cherbourg, Dieppe, Le Havre and Rouen.
"In each city, Alain Maire, director of public communications for southwest Europe, presented a conference on the use of archives kept by legal institutions," said Sister Janowski.
"Many visitors were impressed by the high quality exhibition and really appreciated the event. This special visit helped these non-members to learn about the Church and appreciate the genealogical work done by the Mormons.
"In order to organize this type activity, members had to work together and sacrifice some time to be available to the public. Many contacts were made with dignitary people, local genealogical societies, the media and the public."
The exhibit is one of two traveling exhibits prepared by the Paris public communications office. The first exhibit, "Man and His Origin," includes 60 boards describing the creation of man, the prophets, the Old Testament, the signs of the true Church, the Restoration, the Book of Mormon and the Church today.
The exhibits were created in 1983 after a committee had been organized to help with public communications work. At that time, there weren't any quality church exhibits in France. The committee felt the necessity to create attractive boards, printed in French and adapted to the European culture.
The Le Havre Branch committee spent 1,000 hours of work creating the "Man and His Origin" exhibit. Expenses for pictures, laminations, framework and other costs were covered by the regional public communications department.
Missions, stakes, wards and branches may schedule use of the exhibits. While they are used frequently in conjunction with activities in Church meetinghouses, they sometimes are used also in public places where they are more accessible to visitors.
Leaders report the exhibits have been important factors in the Church receiving favorable publicity. For example, in one branch where there are only three active families, local newspapers published articles before the exhibit. The publicity brought out a great number of people. Two regional television stations also reported on the exhibit.