[VIDEO] Musee de l’Homie: Paris’s ‘Museum of Mankind’ Dedicated to Human Evolution to Reopen to Public

After six years of renovations, the “Museum of Mankind” (Musee de l’Homme) in Paris will reopen its doors this week, after being inaugurated on Thursday (October 15) by French President Francois Hollande.

“Mankind hasn’t changed but the science of mankind has — we know that to understand mankind we must really grasp the biological and cultural aspects and there are plenty of questions in our society’s current events that require this double-understanding, this double-competence.”

—  Evelyne Heyer, curator

Although the exterior of the art deco building, located in the famous Trocadero square overlooking the Eiffel tower, remains unchanged, inside visitors will discover 2,500 square metres of entirely renovated exhibitions, offering a new perspective on the history and evolution of mankind.

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“What we wanted to do is present three questions: Who are we? What is mankind? To show in this part that mankind is part of the animal kingdom and that mankind is an interaction between biological and cultural elements, so that’s the first part. The second part is ‘Where do we come from?’ It’s the history of the evolution of our species and its expansion with a transitional period, what we call the Neolithic period, the moment where man began to domesticate nature. And the third part, it’s a bit along the lines of, ‘Where are we going?’ 

—  Evelyne Heyer

The permanent exhibition revolves around three fundamental questions, explains curator Evelyne Heyer.

“What we wanted to do is present three questions: Who are we? What is mankind? To show in this part that mankind is part of the animal kingdom and that mankind is an interaction between biological and cultural elements, so that’s the first part. The second part is ‘Where do we come from?’ It’s the history of the evolution of our species and its expansion with a transitional period, what we call the Neolithic period, the moment where man began to domesticate nature. And the third part, it’s a bit along the lines of, ‘Where are we going?’ We focused on three questions — globalisation, the impact of mankind on our environment and our biological evolutionary future,” Heyer told Reuters Television.

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“What we would like visitors to come away with for this last part of the exhibition is that the big questions faced by our society currently, about man’s adaptation to himself, are in the end questions that mankind has faced for 10,000 years. And it might be interesting to ask ourselves how humanity has resolved these issues, or not, in order to think about it or at least to tackle the solutions that we can come up with today to the erosion of biodiversity, for example, or the consequences of climate change.”

— Deputy curator Jean Pierre Vigne

The museum contains some of the largest and most reputable collections of prehistoric artefacts in the world, featuring recently acquired ethnological artefacts.

These remarkable objects are presented in chronological order — from the skull of man’s ancestor Cro-Magnon to that of French philosopher Rene Descartes — along with a gallery of 19th century busts representing human diversity in a modern way.

More than 96 million euros were invested by the French government to revamp the historic museum, which first opened its doors in 1938.

Heyer said that the methods of research into humanity have changed since then — researchers now know how important the relationship between biology and culture is in the functioning of human beings.

“Mankind hasn’t changed but the science of mankind has — we know that to understand mankind we must really grasp the biological and cultural aspects and there are plenty of questions in our society’s current events that require this double-understanding, this double-competence,” she said.

In the final part of the museum, visitors are greeted by a large Senegalese bus, a Mongolian hut and modern handmade objects, all elements that remind visitors of the impact human beings have had on their environment.

Deputy curator Jean Pierre Vigne said that visiting the museum should raise questions for visitors, including how the questions of our ancient ancestors are still relevant today.

“What we would like visitors to come away with for this last part of the exhibition is that the big questions faced by our society currently, about man’s adaptation to himself, are in the end questions that mankind has faced for 10,000 years. And it might be interesting to ask ourselves how humanity has resolved these issues, or not, in order to think about it or at least to tackle the solutions that we can come up with today to the erosion of biodiversity, for example, or the consequences of climate change,” Vigne said.

The Museum of Mankind (Musee de l’Homme) opens to the public on Saturday (October 17), with free entry for the first three days after opening.



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