A recent visit to Paris was made to assess the new Quai Branly museum for the Opentext Journal of Peruvian Studies. The Quai Branly is arguably the most important new museum for those Europeans who have some of their family roots in the non-European world - the part on which the Quai Branly focuses. The new museum is many things (multifaceted is the word used on the website) to many people but from the point of view of the Peruvian and Andean diaspora in Paris it is nice to record that there is now an "education and cultural centre" which houses artefacts and other research materials bearing on the cultural heritage of - inter alia - those who have Peruvian and Andean roots. Given that those most conveniently located to use the museum (especially as it is now proposed to have free entrance days for locals) are French and that the French are increasingly families with global roots (but particularly from francophone territories) why not call the site "one of the centres" for the history of the French people. The museum goes some way to present the idea that "their culture is our culture too". This centre (museum is not quite the right word) at times uses the phrase "non-French" for "indigenous" objects / artefacts / pieces of art which perhaps were part of colonial collections but non-Western or non-European in origin.
- so perhaps the (francophone) world is not ready for an "unfrench" definition of the French i.e. multifaceted and multi-sourced.
--Ligitimisation of collectons-- The museum rehouses objects "taken" from three other museums - one of which will become, ironically, a new museum of immigration - of the "new-French" - whilst part of the cultural history of the "new-French" has just been moved to the Branly. Part of these contradictions arise because the museum had been proposed as a principal Chirac monument - in the tradition of the Centre Pompidou and the Biblioteque National "F. Mitterand". The Parisians joke that the former was built inside-out whilst the latter was built upside-down. The Branly, they quip, is built from a double robbery: first colonial acquisitions and then from other museums just as some French want Chirac to stand trial for raiding public coffers twice over: first as Mayor of Paris and then as President of the Republic. However some of the curators in the Branly have succeeded in ligitimising its collections by implicity presenting objects as part of the cultural heritage of the new-French: a diaspora of artefacts for a diaspora of people.
--Critical reviews-- "France's new museum is an ill-judged disaster that rivals UK dome for incompetence" (
--The Peruvian and Andean collections-- This journal of course is interested in the objects from the Andean countries and in particular Peru. Initially those on display were presented as objects for aesthetic appreciation, rather than direct evidence of cultural development. However there now seems to be fuller contextual labelling [Art museum? Anthropological museum? Ethnological museum? Museum of the (earlier) history of (some of) the French people?] and above all an attempt to portray cultures in a way which stimulates enquiry and which is backed up by research and education facilities.
--Who was Branly, does it matter?-- There had been disagreement over the name for the new museum, indeed for the need for the museum in the first place. Even the current listing in Pariscope (Paris listings 3.1.07) seems to be confused about the Musee de l'Homme and Quai Branly descriptions.
(Stub TBC - not yet categorised)