Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Primitive art at Musee Quai Branly

After celebrating Jean-Claude's birthday by treating him to a night at a Paris hotel and dinner at one of the oldest Auberges in Paris we made the most of our next day by spending it at Musee Quai Branly which specialises in primitive art from around the world. It was established by President Chirac in his day.


Featured regions include Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Objects on display are diverse but can be relied on to include masks, costumes, musical instruments. The place was very busy with school groups and two temporary exhibitions: Samurai outfits and in another room Maori artifacts. The later was a bit serendipitous.

Generally the museum is well laid out but you have to go out of it to eat anything and then go through security again to get in.

Merchandising is kept to a minimum. I enjoyed spending several hours going through it fairly methodically but one thing really bugged me. The standard of written English on the exhibits. Frankly, it's awful to see the carelessness in a museum of this size in Paris; spelling and grammatical mistakes in headings and body text. The so-called English section of their website is really crappy and even their map to the complex includes inexcusable mistakes.

This is France, not Timbuktu. They have access to native English speakers but they don't seem to notice they are lacking in professionalism and care. Obviously no-one checks what they write. They should be embarrassed and ashamed as a national monument.

I feel irritated because it's abundantly clear throughout my time here that France desperately needs some expertise in English but the government here seems to do everything in it's power to keep experts like me out.

What also gets up my nose in monuments and restaurants in France is their use of American English. I can't understand why they choose that when the rest of the world (including non-English-speaking countries) use standard English. It can't be a tourism decision as most visitors would not be from the USA.

 For many of us who don't live in the US it's yet another example of American cultural imperialism otherwise its use wouldn't exist outside the US. For goodness sake, there's nothing dangerous about the letters S or U. It's no advantage to non-US citizens to be identified as Americans these days-it can be dangerous.

I don't want to be identified as American so I won't use their spelling. It must be confusing for foreigners. I've written to their communications department alerting them to their errors in English usage and offering my services but I'm not holding my breath for a reply.

The Samurai exhibition was excellent; great to be up close to all that armour, some of it many hundreds of years old.

I didn't learn much from the Maori exhibition other than it was selected and presented predominently by Maori. Lots of stuff I would have liked to see from everyday life wasn't there. There was an undercurrent of politics of course.


The pieces on display were of good quality and the main information panels were displayed in French, English and Maori. It seemed to be well patronised.

Photographs can only be taken if you don't use flash.


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