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Paris’ Museum of Mankind reopens after a 6-year closure

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A gallery of busts from the 19th century at the Museum of Mankind (Musee de l'Homme) in Paris, 14 October 2015. Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

The Paris’ Museum of Mankind will reopen to the public this weekend after a six-year closure and 92 million-euro renovation.


The Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) dedicated to anthropology, ethnology and prehistory of human evolution, is reopening this weekend after six years of renovation and fears over its possible definitive closure.

For many years the Musée de l’Homme was left with half of its collection gone to the brand new glass building Quai Branly museum (as part of legacy project of former French president Jacques Chirac in 2003) while the remaining collection was sent to the museum of European and Mediterranean civilisations in Marseille.

"The museum is a hymn to the unity of mankind", said French President François Hollande when inaugurating the revamped Musée de l’Homme on Thursday.

The world-class collections of the museum, which first opened in 1937, now include six rooms showing the evolution of man, with 700,000 prehistoric and 30,000 anthropological objects explaining the origins of racial difference, languages and human diversity over millions of years.

A permanent exhibition focuses on three key questions: "Who are we? ... Where do we come from? .... Where are we going?" said curator Evelyne Heyer.

Amongst the thousands of objects and artifacts, there are a Venus of Lespugue, a 25,000-year old statuette in mammoth ivory discovered in southwest France and the skull of French philosopher Rene Descartes alongside the skull of a Cro-Magnon, the first early modern man.

But the Museum of Mankind also made from its loss of the ethnographic collections, an opportunity to reinvent its mission and now focuses on the impact humans continue to have on their environment.

A renovated traditional public transport bus from Dakar (1960) at the Museum of Mankind in Paris, 14 October 2015. Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

It displays examples such as a large Senegalese bus, a Mongolian hut and modern handmade objects.

"What we would like visitors to come away with… is that the big questions faced by our society currently about man's adaptation are in the end questions that mankind has faced for 10,000 years," deputy curator Jean Pierre Vigne added.