The new Musée de l’Homme

THE renovated Musée de l’Homme in Paris France reopened its doors to the public early October after a six year restoration programme. AfricaBriefing was invited to a preview of the new museum space that celebrates humanity in all its diversity.

What does it mean to be human? Where do we come from? Where are we headed? These are the three questions at the centre of the mission statement of the newly renovated Musée de l’Homme.

Costing a reported €93m, the renovation has transformed the museum space for the 21st century. Originally, the museum was opened in 1938. Its original, rather brutal façade has been kept, but the interior has been transformed.

Gone are the somber, dusty, uniform, brown-wood display cases; in comes all-new public displays, many of which are interactive, that tell the story of humanities development.

As one would expect with Africa being the mother continent, from where all humanity sprang, the continent is central to the museum’s presentations. But, refreshingly, there is no attempt to divide the exhibition into separate geographies.
So, we find a brightly painted public bus, shipped over from Dakar, Senegal, placed next to a Mongolian Yurt (a traditional tent). And you might find an African artifact next to a First Nation American Indian headdress, or Peruvian reed boat.

The bus is open for the public to board and, along one side, the windows are converted into screens that screens a virtual trip through the streets of the Senegalese capital. And visitors can also enter the yurt to see how many Mongolians live.

This diversity brings into focus world cultures’ very real differences, as well as their similarities. In a matter of weeks Paris is hosting one of the most important global conferences ever to be organised, the COP21 climate change summit.

It is at this conference where our differences must really be put to one side, and our collective future decided upon. This eclectic exhibition, and the state-of-the-art, scientific research and education facilities within the museum, illustrates the question of humanity’s future at a key moment in mankind’s history.

The museum is open daily, except Tuesdays and major public holidays. Late nights Wednesday. €10 entrance

Stephen Williams

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