First Sunday: Musée du Quai Branly

Another first Sunday just rolled by, did you catch it? Seriously, time needs to slow down a bit – I am struggling to keep up. Anyways, it was the perfect day for museum-ing. The clouds were dark and heavy, threatening rain all morning, which culminated in a specatular thunderstorm later that night. My colleague suggested the Musée du Quai Branly, which is located just past the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement. Wanting not to feel claustrophobic, as can be the case when the whole of Paris seems to crowd into your museum of choice (I am looking at you, Musée d’Orsay), we made the effort to be there bright and early. This is what greeted me as I exited the metro:

Not such a bad way to start a Sunday morning. Turns out we need not have worried about space. The museum is massive and almost completely hidden from the quai (riverside boulevard) by a large glass wall and a tangled jumble of lush, green foliage. Is it just me, or does this remind others slightly of Jurassic Park?

The museum contains innumerable artifacts from the indigenous cultures of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.  Apparently, only slightly more than 1% of the total collection is on display. That was more than enough to keep us occupied, mouths agape and overwhelmed for the better part of several hours.

The layout of the museum was very organic. Designed relatively recently (mid-1990s), the different civilizations are grouped together and organized first by geographic regions and then chronologically. The exhibits run through a long, relatively narrow space, along the outsides of the rectangular building. Running through the center of the cultural exhibits is an additional feature, “La Rivière”, which seeks to explain how man perceives and impacts the environment around him. Here there are interactive features about how different cultures organize their homes, cities or perceptions of where Earth fits into a greater spiritual world.

Unlike several other grand museums in Paris, almost all major signage was displayed in at least French and English, if not also Spanish. As I have almost no background knowledge in anthropology or ethnography, it was a relief to have some framework within which to put the pieces I was seeing. There was so much – statuary, textiles, tools and idols – seemingly crammed into every nook and cranny that even after three hours of wandering I felt like I had only taken a cursory glance. Here are a few of my favorites:


(protective monkey spirit + my reflection)

(protective faceless spirit)


(ritual oxen mask)

(wooden man)



(totem pole)


(Mayan head)

(Greenland mask)

Upon reflection, I think that one of my favorite installations was “The River”. As you traveled up the ramp from the center lobby/entrance into the main exhibit hall, there was a projected cascade of words that traveled along the floor much like water. The words formed whirlpools and eddies, merging streams and meandering offshoots, and every once in a while, you’d recognize the words floating by and hurry to whip out your camera in time to capture the current.

As we walked out of the museum into the emerging sunshine, we both decided that this site would go onto our ‘must show to guests’ list, if only to have the chance to return and sift through the enormous collection. Moreover, entrance to the gardens is always free, and a coffee sipped in the quiet of this urban forest, just minutes from the tumult of Paris, seems as if it would be ideal for another summer Sunday afternoon. We parted ways and I meandered along the river towards the city center.

(roof of the Grand Palais, next on my list)

It is remarkable the palpable change that has come over the Parisians now that summer is here. The sunshine and long days have softened even the crankiest local and, it seems, everyone is smiling or laughing. And, why not? It is Paris, after all.

(wedding photos snapped in haste during a red light, as everyone strolls on by)


38 responses to “First Sunday: Musée du Quai Branly

  1. love the pics.gorgeous photos. Thanks for sharing

  2. My wife and I are headed to Paris next summer. Can’t wait!

  3. Absolutely incredible pictures. Love the bride and groom in the crosswalk — awesome…


  4. Beautiful shots. I love the museum close ups, and of course the tower is iconic.

  5. Great museum. I went there 4 years ago and I enjoyed a lot, great collection, and I loved the architecture

  6. Oh goodness your pics just make me want to go to Paris even more!!

  7. Beautiful pictures. Looks like a fun trip. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I must add this to my monuments in Paris that I cover in class! Thanks for sharing!

  9. You rock! We went there last summer, maybe -waited for an hour in the rain, so it must have been later in the afternoon. Strangely enough, I was most interested in their American Northwest tribal collection. Love that Greenland mask!

  10. Thanks for an amazing blog on my favourite city in the World!

  11. The first picture is a bit scary 🙂

  12. Lovely, thanks for bringing us along. 🙂 I definitely needed a little trip away from my desk today! 😀

  13. wow! very cool. i must visit paris in the next 5 years. it’s on my bucket list.

  14. Seriously, I go to Paris at least couple of times a year (eurostar from London…) and I have never been to this museum! I cannot believe it…. the peacock mask is beautiful! Thanks for the great pics and most importantly…the inspiration!

  15. theveryhungrybookworm

    I went to this museum the last time I was in Paris and I recall it being one of my favorite! It’s location is certainly lovely 🙂

    That first Sunday is delightful, but it does lead to lots of crazy people. Be brave!

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  17. Very pictorally, textually informative. The shots are very pleasant! I hope to get to Europe, one day! I will visit so much art I have only seen in photos!

  18. The one museum we always talk about, but never get to on our Paris visits! Thanks for sharing your day there…

    Glad you enjoyed our neighborhood!

  19. Very impressing art pieces. Thanks for sharing

  20. Wow–absolutely beautiful. Loved this post about one of my favorite cities! Thank you.

  21. oh to be it culture ground zero, great site… reading it all the way in australia. thanks

  22. Pingback: Fresh off the Presses! | Researching Paris

  23. Paris!
    thanks for the glimpse of Paris, always nice to see it from a different set of eyes!

  24. Wonderful! Do you now see why I love Anthropology? I always love reading you posts when I catch them, you have an amazing talent for storytelling.

  25. Pingback: First Sunday: Musée du Quai Branly (via Researching Paris) « Finding The Half Apple

  26. Nice share bro..
    I Love Paris XD

  27. Hi love your blog, i knew paris was fascinating but wasn’t aware it could be so colourful and animated. Please add my link to your blog and i am going to do the same. Great writing as well

  28. Nice pics! … although it’s forbidden to take pictures inside of the museum ^^; I thought it strange and stupid too, seeing as they’re not paintings and such, and I did take a few myself because I didn’t see the “no picture” signs on the walls… Until 2 big security guards approached me to “nicely” inform me of the rules O_o; *gaps* Good thing it didn’t happen in Japan where they can break your camera for not respecting these signs -__-;

    Anyway, I’m glad our Chirac really was intent on having this museum made! It’s a a nice adding to the hoard of “more usual” museums of Paris, and I found the lightnings and disposition very well thought and proof of good aesthetics’ sense.

  29. Wonderful photos! I’d love to check Paris out then; I had no idea it was so stunning! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  30. wow those pics are just outstanding.

  31. I have the enormous luck of currently living haf an hours stroll from that museum. I realy love the rivière and the gardens as well, and I found the artefacts visually arresting, but other than that I really had no wider framework to put them in. I think I spent about an hour there, whie I can easily spend a whole day exploring half a section the Louvre.

    • researchingparis

      That is a wonderful location! For me, the sheer size of the artifacts (and numbers of them) were overwhelming. I had museum fatigue much faster than I would looking at paintings. However, I will definitely go back – it seems they rotate their exhibits frequently as well… Coffee in the gardens is a must at some point – maybe I will see you there! Thanks for reading and commenting!

  32. it eye open for me, i never been see this all stuff. i am amaze by it. Thank for sharing
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  33. always so proud…you are amazing….Love you Mom

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  35. Legendary post, I enjoy this spectacular site,I found you along freshly pressed!

    Please do check my personal fascinating training blog.

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