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Hélène Lafont-Couturier
Musée des Confluences - détail
Musée des Confluences
Hélène Lafont-Couturier © Quentin Lafont
Musée des Confluences - détail © Nicolas Villion
Musée des Confluences © Nicolas Villion

Hélène Lafont-Couturier

We spoke with Hélène Lafont-Couturier – Director of the Musée des Confluences

The Musée des Confluences styles itself as a museum of the sciences and societies. What will visitors find in the museum?

The permanent exhibitions, covering 3000 sq. m of floor space, will offer a story told in four parts – four rooms with exceptional displays that tell the story of human beings: Origines, les récits du monde (Origins, stories of the world), Sociétés, le théâtre des hommes (Societies, the theatre of man), Espèces, la maille du vivant (Species, living networks), Éternités, visions de l’au-delà (Eternities, visions of the beyond).

The items on show will be interconnected and involved in the stories told: meteorites, ammonites, Cochinchina birdlife, Huygens microscope, Homo Sapiens mandible, Sputnik, Senufo sculptures, Samurai armour...

What makes this museographical approach unique?

The Musée des Confluences is unique in the world because of its architecture and its view over the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône. Its collections are also incredible: they include more than 2 million objects that have been collected since the 17th century. They are made up of extraordinary curiosities, contributed by scholars and passionate collectors, and enriched both by rational additions and the trends of various periods. Displayed in part in the permanent exhibition, they will also be displayed in temporary exhibitions on a regular basis. Some are also the subject of current scientific research.

Elsewhere, the decision to use four different approaches to exhibiting objects in the permanent exhibition and to present contrasting, but related objects sideby-side, is a new concept in the varied world of museums. For instance, an aboriginal painting displayed alongside a 19th-century repeating circle provide two examples of how humans are required to organise their territory when living in a society.

Besides the permanent exhibition, what can we expect to see at the Musée des Confluences?

We will be putting on four to six temporary exhibitions a year. Two inaugural exhibitions – Les Trésors d’Emile Guimet (Emile Guimet’s Treasures) and La Chambre des Merveilles (The Room of Wonders) – will be displayed until summer 2016, both references to the museum’s history. As of autumn 2015, there will be themed cultural seasons: innovation (2015-2016), the human body (2016-2017) and the imagination (2017-2018).

Beginning in spring 2015, cultural events will also be regularly held, such as jazz and world music concerts, scientific conferences and a festive weekend on the topic of “passion collections”. The museum’s various rooms will be open to a wide-ranging cultural programme, often in conjunction with Lyon’s other cultural institutions, such as the Biennial Festivals and the Festival of Light. 

 

Hélène Lafont-Couturier

Hélène Lafont-Couturier is currently the director of the Musée des Confluences. After first working as a curator for the Bordeaux Museum of Fine Arts, she was entrusted with the task of creating the Goupil museum by the town of Bordeaux. In 1996, she filled a temporary replacement role at the Capcmusée in Bordeaux and was then named director of the museum of Aquitaine.

At the same time, from 1998 to 2000, she was asked by the Louvre to research the museum’s Chalcography collection. In 2005, she led the project to create the Musée National des Cultures et de l’Histoire de l’Immigration in Paris which opened its doors to the public on 10th October 2007.

She is the author of several books on the Goupil family and the topic of the dissemination of art in the 19th century, as well as a monograph on painter Jean-Léon Gérôme published by Editions Herscher in 1998.

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