Crossing over the Debilly footbridge in Paris, Pont de l’ Alma on the left, Seine river flowing underneath towards the right, the Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is perceived just beyond. The long name doesn’t reveal what it is exactly but hints at a larger meaning. Musée, the french word for museum, is a « sacred place of muses » according to Umberto Eco. Specifically, Quai Branly, a place, linked with Jacques Chirac doesn’t tell much either but an exhibit currently on view divulges aspects of the fascinating and controversial relationship beween the two. In general terms, however, place linked to man leads one to consider man’s place in the world. Musée du Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is a museum of the arts and civilizations of Africa, 0ceania, Asia and the Americas. It is a place for cross cultural dialogue about the relationship between humans and the space that surrounds them. Such a conversation requires an open mind to accept different points of view. Similarly, there is not one right way to visit the museum which subscribes to universal accessibility. It was designed to be inclusive and offers several tools to explore the collections according to one’s preference and ability.
The early art and artefacts of Africa, Oceania, Asia and the Americas that make up the permanent collection at Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac were accumulated by French explorers, missionaries, ethnologists, and art collectors over more than four centuries. Most of it came to France from the four continents during French colonization and was previously housed separately in an art museum and an anthropology museum. Brought together with the museum’s recent acquisitions of non-European art, every object (including books, photographs, films, music recordings) is now an integral part of French culture and history. Additionally, temporary exhibits, workshops, shows, festivals, and conferences enrich the programming.
In Voices of Silence, André Malraux, envisioned a museum without walls accessible to everyone where art, liberated from historical context, time, and place could be rearranged in the mind according to aesthetic or philosophical qualities. Furthermore, he predicted the 21st century desire to explain man and his destiny by reassessing the artistic expressions of diverse cultures. This is the force behind the simple sensorial scenography at the Quai Branly museum which explores the heart of four continents and civilisations without hierarchy, borders or barriers.
Perched on pilotis, the main structure resembles a bridge but rather than crossing the Seine follows its natural curve. The river is a metaphor which has a strong presence throughout architect Jean Nouvel’s design. The circular ramp leading to the galleries has an art installation evoking the river’s downstream flow. Visitors follow a leather pathway called La Riviére on a journey through the permanent collection. As an advocate and mother to a young man with TED I could not help recalling that the river is also a symbol for a struggle to overcome. Just as there are many different vessels to navigate a river, either alone or in a group, there are many tools available to assist differently-abled visitors enhance their experience. Every effort is made to be inclusive so that when possible the same activities are proposed in the same spaces at the same time for everyone with or without a disability. However, for those who prefer, there are visits designed for specific audiences such as a guide in french sign language. Furthermore, those who need a quieter environment may reserve for their group when the museum is closed to the general public.
An easy-to-read brochure similar to a social story helped prepare my son for a recent visit but once there we borrowed an IPAD with headphones from the information desk. Equipped with 4 apps, one theme-based guide for each continent called Quai Branly Experts, it was designed for use by all age levels plus adapted with french sign language and subtitles. Afterwards, a game booklet for 7-12 year olds, available in English, provided fun activities to remember the visit. We also enjoy down- time in the soothing gardens that surround the museum. Others may prefer exploring the landscape designed as a part of the journey to let off some energy before the museum visit or to make the transition from the urban Parisian environment. If on the contrary you are concerned about fatigue, the coatroom has wheelchairs, strollers, folding chairs at your disposal as well as flashlights for those who find the galeries too dark. Whatever you may need, just ask. What I appreciate the most about Musée Quai Branly-Jacques Chirac is that all cultures are considered equal and that is how they treat visitors too.
Practical Information and Images
The Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac is located at 37 Quai Branly in the 7th arrondissment of Paris. The main entrance is opposite the Debilly footbridge along the Seine River. There are two other entrances at 222 (physically disabled only) and 218 rue de l’Université. Admission is free for visitors with a disability and one companion. Audio guides and other tools to improve your visit are free as well as priority access when there is a line. There is a reduced price for all events and workshops.Check the website in English, click icon on the right, for more information email email@example.com or call 01 56 61 53 18.
When to visit: Closed on Mondays. The garden opens at 9 :15 a.m. and the museum at 11a.m. It closes at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday, Sunday, 9 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.It is possible for groups (max. 12 no minimum)to reserve on Monday and during the week between 9:30 and 11am.
Restrooms : Take elevator in the entrance hall to lower level JB.
Food and Beverage :There is no food inside the museum but there are several places with seating in the garden a covered picnic area if you bring your own food and two drinking fountains. Across the garden Café Branly serves light fare and Ombres on the roof is an upscale restaurant (42-74 Euros) with a panoramic view. Personally, we did not have a pleasant experience at the former and have never been to the latter.
Bus: Line 42 is the closest 63, 80,92 are a short walking distance,72 is across the footbridge
RER C: Pont de l’Alma
Batobus: Eiffel Tower stop on the Seine River
Metro: Bir Hakeim (line 6) Ecole Militaire (line 8) across the Seine Alma-Marceau (line 9)
Which option is best suited to your needs? Checkout GlobetrotTED under infomobi!
Car: The website lists 9 on street parking spaces for vehicles displaying a handicap sticker and 3 parking garages.