From the time the Musée de l’Homme first opened, its galleries presented the history human species with an approach ranging from physical to cultural, universal to individual, which unfolded in a directed, one-way visit.
The Musée de l’Homme layout
The modern museum that opened in 1938 benefitted from the experience of its predecessor the Trocadero Ethnography Museum, and offered rich visual content and easy access. The visit began with a physical anthropology and prehistory gallery that presented human physical varieties through an exhibition of skulls, skeletons, prehistoric objects and photographs. Among the artefacts was the Venus of Lespugue, discovered in 1922 in a cave in the Haute-Garonne department of France, which shows the tie, already present, between discoveries, research and public exhibition. Next, a series of ethnological galleries offered a geographical and ethnographic al presentation of the continents: Sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, North Africa and the Levant, Europe (excluding France), Arctic regions, Asia, Oceania, and Pre-Columbian America. Each room was devoted to a different continent and designed on the same model, with the same signage and the same approach to content, which matched populations with their material productions. Lastly was a room dedicated to arts and techniques that regrouped objects from diverse geographical and ethnographical origins by theme, while a temporary exhibition space presented objects that had recently been collected during museum missions or donated through the Friends of the Musée de l’Homme Society (Société des Amis du Musée de l’Homme).
The major permanent exhibitions
Beginning in the 1990s, the Musée de l’Homme created large scale permanent exhibitions that demonstrated the museum’s vocation to answer questions regarding the origin of the humankind. As of the 1994, the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution (also a part of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle) presented humans as a factor of recent evolution. It was only natural that the Musée de l’Homme place humans in the context of the evolution of species by detailing the history of the human lineage and by illustrating various conceptions of nature and the usage that results from it. The first exhibition, La nuit des temps (“The dawn of time”) displayed the paleontological and cultural history of humans through the exhibition of human fossil remains, prehistoric tools and cave art. In 1992, the exhibition Tous parents tous différents (“All related, all different”) presented the main results from studies on the biology of present-day human populations, insisting on the common origin of all human beings, while reminding visitors of the genetic and physical diversity that makes each of us unique. In 1994, Six milliards d’hommes (“Six billion humans”) introduced visitors to the mechanisms behind the human population explosion and its implications for our future way of life on the planet.