I recently attended the conference for Hands On! Europe – the children’s museum association of Europe. This was the second of their conferences I have attended and it was wonderful and challenging. I am always humbled by meeting with a group of folks who have managed to learn multiple languages in their lives (among the many things that humble me!).
Leaving aside the conference for the moment – maybe more on that in a later post – I want to write a few words about the spectacular museum moment of my trip. For some years I’ve wanted to visit the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle and I took the opportunity of being in Paris to do just that.
My wife had to pry me away after three hours of my open-mouthed gawking. What a wonderful museum! It is among the most beautiful museums I have ever visited. Bar none.
After almost 20 years since the central installation was complete, it is beginning to show its age. If they are smart, they will simply assemble as much of the original team as can be found to minimally spruce it up. Every decision was elegant, economical, and beautiful. The designers applied a deeply respectful sense of play in assembling the menagerie. Very little is behind glass, most of the collection occupies the same space as the visitors with only the slimmest of barriers between them. One has the feeling walking among God’s wonders, how much a part of this group we are.
The masterfully mounted taxidermy specimens vie for attention with the fossil or skeletal specimens. Because the visitor can look them all in the eye, so to speak, it is more a relationship across time and species than I am used to. Rather than make me uncomfortable, it was profoundly reassuring.
Visit this museum! It’s worth the transatlantic voyage!