Jardin des Plantes and Grande Galerie de l’Évolution
The Jardin des Plantes and Grande Galerie de l’Évolution, Paris. Inside, the gallery of evolution is quite amazing, with an astonishing building that combines fantastic colour lighting, sound effects (at one point simulating a thunderstorm), and a vast historical collection of stuffed animals:
If there is a downside to this very stylish presentation, it a general lack of narrative explanation of evolution itself and why it is such a successful biological theory and framework. There is an explanation, hidden at the very top, but it is kind of lost in the astonishing views of stuffed giraffes, whale skeletons and jars of pickled life…
There was even a small collection of photographs by one of my favourite photographers – Robert Doisneau, who extensively photographed work at the museum early in his career.
The gallery’s history is quite fascinating, dating back to the French revolution. Overall the effect is as if an extensive collection of Victorian biological curios has collided with a modern audio-visual art project, all while trying to make sense of the result as a modern educational resource. I suspect that the latter is better served through school trips and seminar rooms than the exhibits themselves, which seem to be have a somewhat eclectic post modern organisation.
It is encouraging to see such a positive and prominent treatment for a subject that has been and remains problematic to a significant (and misguided) part of humanity elsewhere the world.
Edit: barely 12 hours after posting this, one fanatical misguided part of humanity took it upon itself to murder innocent civilians in a series of religious attacks in Paris. The Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, where these photographs were taken represent represent the very best in humanity, where people seek knowledge and understanding with open minds. In contrast, fanatical religious groups such as ISIS and all others that seek to impose their delusional closed-minded ignorance represent the absolute worst. Modern France’s people, culture and their celebration of learning and art stand brightly as a model for others, and no attacks can change this.