A sweeping view of our evolution who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we headed? The much awaited Galerie de l’Homme is the essence of the museum. It covers the largest surface, a total of 2500 m2 spanning two levels and a mezzanine. The museum’s success depends in large part on the interest of its subject matter and the appeal of its design. The stakes are high.

Comment raconter l’aventure humaine et la rendre accessible à tous ?

How to recount the human adventure in a way everyone understands? Humans are an infinitely vast subject. The Galerie de l’Homme focuses on three comprehensive questions: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we headed?

At first glance, everyone knows what it means to be a human being. On closer look, can anyone really define who we are? The visit begins with an exploration of human nature from a variety of angles, relying on findings from both the life sciences and the human sciences to give a broader understanding of our body, mind, language and life in complex societies. How far back must we look to find the very first human being?

The second part of the visit deals with the history of human evolution. The search for the origin of our species, Homo sapiens, adds to the picture of who we are today and how we got here.

The last part of the visit focuses on the world as we know it. It investigates the ecological impact of human activities, the socio-cultural effects of globalization, and the extent to which our specieswill be able to adapt to environments that we have contributed to creating. It stands in line with the commitments of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle: to safeguard biodiversity and raise public awareness about the challenges involved in preserving the planet we call home.

Key messages

The Galerie de l’Homme is the result of multidisciplinary collaboration between in-house scientists and qualified outside personalities from the human sciences and biology, who have weaved together the latest findings from their fields to arrive at the key messages: the oneness of humanity despite our differences; the African origin of our species; and the permanent nature of our reliance on an environment to which we have constantly had to adapt and that we in turn modify at an ever quickening pace after occupying nearly all of the planet’s ecological reaches. To get the messages across, we propose a broad array of objects and artefacts as well as interpretative and interactive tools that offer a wide diversity of approaches. The visit is punctuated by recurring modules. The “History of science and ideas” trail illustrates and retraces the evolution of knowledge itself. “Advance of science” focuses on the current state of research and new analytical techniques.

A variety of experiences accessible to all

Contemplating, touching, listening, reading, smelling, playing, participating… all of the senses are engaged through the diversity of interpretative resources proposed. The spaces and content of the Galerie de l’Homme are designed to be accessible to all visitors and to respond to a diversity of expectations and learning styles, from families and school groups to the simply curious or knowledgeable enthusiasts, as well as people with disabilities.

Museum Design To The Beat Of Time

An immersion in our evolution

Zette Cazalas’ agency Zen+dCoOffice Design has designed the Galerie de l’Homme as a rich, all around immersive experience. The flow takes into account the specificities of the two large naves, their linearity, their sweeping curves, and the spectacular view of the Seine on one façade. Visitors can follow the exhibit in any order, guided simply by the indications positioned along the wall on the Seine side, which are intended to lure them away from the diffused light of the stunning windows towards the more intimate spaces where authentic, fragile objects are presented (alcove displays, semi-closed areas), and to prompt them to pause before the spectacular wall cases and interpretative means to understanding an object, be it through multimedia and hands-on fun or sound effects.

A forward-looking gallery

A rich range of digital tools enhance visitor experience. Custom display cases integrate discreet technologies, from microclimate control for each category of object displayed to the treatment of glass to boost visitor visibility and protect the objects, as well as augmented displays that provide additional information regarding an object at the touch of a fingertip.

Curiosity cabinets: new and improved

Spectacular due to their size (3 to 4 m high and 9 m long, 12 m for the longest, and 1.5 m deep) as well as the number of objects they contain (as many as a hundred), the wall cases are designed, like a painting, to draw the visitor in. They are aesthetic ensembles that provide a wealth of information. For technical reasons (climate control), they are positioned along the wall opposite the windows. Their size offers the possibility to create perspectives and stage objects on several levels. Each object serves a purpose and tells its own story while remaining an integral part of an overall theme. Visitors approach and explore the entire panorama before honing in on details of particular interest to them and stepping up to the multimedia kiosks for more information.

Innovative exhibits

Each section of the visit proposes one or more exhibits for an offbeat experience:

  • a 3.5 m tall resin tongue complete with salivary glands, which the visitor enters to hear songs from the world over;
  • a monumental presentation of anthropological busts, arranged like a musical staff, towers 11 m high;
  • the Circle of Neolithic hot spots, recounts this fundamental transition on a series of seven felt panels
  • the World turns, 9 m in diameter, reflects our impact on the environment;
  • the Garden of mutations demonstrates evolution at work in modern-day humans.

All of these structures stand on their own but blend in with the overall in the choice of colours, materials and forms.

Sensory Trail

Accessibility as added value for all; Sensory trail exhibits have been designed as an integral part of the scenography and respond to broad objectives aimed at French and foreign visitors alike, people with limited or no sight, families, and visitors with reading difficulties. The Sensory trail includes a high-contrast relief floorplan and about twenty dedicated resources located throughout the Gallery, consisting of hands-on components, audio commentary and tactile tables.

The tactile objects are works of art in their own right, both aesthetically and in the materials used to create them. Reproductions of objects from the collections (busts, fossil skulls), artefacts, sculptures, etc., they help visitors grasp the essential content of each sub-section of the Galerie de l’Homme through touch and audition. Mounted on pedestals, they go hand in hand with manually activated audio components and information in Braille.

A Wealth Of Resources

1800 remarkable objects and artefacts come straight out of the Musée de l’Homme reserves and the field collections of researchers. New acquisitions, loans and commissioned artworks are constantly being added. Since the most remarkable specimens are often the best message bearers, they are showcased to give visitors an up-close look.

80 screens, 14 kiosks with digital captions, 60 different interactive displays… (game tables, exhibits engaging the visitor’s body, scientific role-play, multi-screen video installations, audio exhibits, documentaries) all custom-designed with original content derived from the work of the museum’s researchers.