Aquitaine Mu­seum,

Bordeaux's Aquitaine Mu­seum charts the re­mark­able cul­tural nar­ra­tive of the re­gion from pre­his­tory through the mid-20th cen­tury, with re­cently ren­o­vated ex­hibits ex­plor­ing Bordeaux as a gate­way to the world from the Revo­lu­tion through of At­lantic com­merce

Bordeaux J'Adore - - Contents - SUZANNE NEL­SON QUENTIN SALINIER

Bordeaux's golden age . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

THE AQUITAINE MU­SEUM TRACES A JOUR­NEY FROM PRE-HIS­TORY TO THE CITY’S GOLDEN ERA OF MERCANTILE SPLEN­DOUR. The later rooms, cov­er­ing the pe­riod from 1800 to 1939, have been re­cently ren­o­vated with paint­ings, sculp­tures, draw­ings, ev­ery­day ob­jects, posters, pe­riod films, videos and sound ef­fects, which ex­plain the city's re­la­tion­ship with the world dur­ing this pe­riod. This per­ma­nent ex­hibit is di­vided into three sec­tions: A port un­der trans­for­ma­tion; A world mar­itime hori­zon; and An ex­pand­ing city.

Be­fore em­bark­ing on this fab­u­lous jour­ney, it's best to set the stage with a pause in a small room ded­i­cated to the tur­moil of the French Revo­lu­tion and the fate of the Girondins. This room acts as a tran­si­tion from the thought-pro­vok­ing ex­hibit on

the city's role in the tri­an­gu­lar trade and slav­ery to how the city then re­opened re­la­tions with the rest of the world af­ter the wars of the Revo­lu­tion and Em­pire.

A port un­der trans­for­ma­tion

Be­gin­ning in the 1820s, Bordeaux's port ex­pe­ri­enced an eco­nomic boom and ma­jor works of ur­ban devel­op­ment were un­der­taken. River traf­fic in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly and the 'Port de la Lune' be­came a ma­jor hub. 'We have paint­ings that rep­re­sent this pe­riod,' ex­plains Aquitaine Mu­seum cu­ra­tor François Hu­bert. 'For in­stance, you see the quays aren't yet built.' One such paint­ing, 'The port of Bordeaux' by Jean­jacques Al­ban de Les­gallery is just one of the mag­nif­i­cent pain-tings de­pict­ing this pe­riod. Hu­bert in­di­cates a paint­ing from 1868, 'What's in­ter­est­ing is that we still have the flat-bot­tomed gabar­res and sail­boats, but we see the first steam-ships that start to nav­i­gate on the river,' he says.

A world mar­itime hori­zon

Transat­lantic ocean lin­ers, mer­chant ves­sels sail­ing the globe, Bordeaux's port was a vi­tal link to coun­tries around the world, ri­valling the in­flu­ence of Paris, Lyon, Nantes, Le Havre and Mar­seille. In an­other paint­ing, 'we see all of the dif­fer­ent types of boats and ships built in Bordeaux, the port was a real ship­yard for pri­vate ship­pers,' says Hu­bert. 'It was in­dus­trial.' Bordeaux's ship­pers were ac­tive in the Far East, Cochinchina, New Cale­do­nia, the French West Indies, and the Pa­cific. Many lu­cra­tive prod­ucts passed through Bordeaux. The French West Indies pro­duced 15% of Europe's su­gar in the 1830s, not to men­tion the rum trade. And fish­er­men here un­loaded the cod from New­found­land and Ice­land, lead­ing to the con­struc­tion of the cod-dry­ing plants... Ce­re­als ar­rived from Ar­gentina... At the same time, be­tween 1865 and 1920, 371,000 mi­grants de­parted from Bordeaux in search of a bet­ter life. 'In the re­gion, there was the grave

cri­sis of phyl­lox­era and many peo­ple im­mi­grated,' ex­plains Hu­bert. 'Mainly to Amer­ica and South Amer­ica.'

An ex­pand­ing city

The dy­namic econ­omy cre­ated by the port led to ma­jor ur­ban im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing wide av­enues and the city ring road. Clas­si­cal ideals were re­flected in the city's grand ar­chi­tec­ture, with Eclec­ti­cism and Art Nou­veau en­rich­ing the cityscape later on. So­ci­ety re­flected the port’s wealth and diversity, from street hawk­ers and trades­men to the pri­vate clubs of the bour­geoisie. Stone ma­sonry, wood­work­ing, iron­work­ing and stained glass flour­ished.leave time to visit the rest of the mu­seum. It takes vis­i­tors on a re­mark­able jour­ney, pass­ing through Gallo-ro­man times, the Mid­dle Ages and a thought-pro­vok­ing ex­hibit on the city’s role in the tri­an­gu­lar trade and slav­ery. From pre­his­tory, an un­known artist gave us the stun­ningly sim­ple and el­e­gant Venus de Laus­sel, a 25,000-year-old bas-re­lief de­pict­ing a preg­nant wo­man; the Ro­mans left us a bronze statue of Her­cules and the Mid­dle Ages be­queathed su­perb stone fig­ures of me­dieval war­rior knights. The mu­seum hosts an ex­quis­ite 1/36th scale model of the Con­quer­ant, a mag­nif­i­cent three-masted war­ship the French used in their war against the English, later cap­tured by Ad­mi­ral Nel­son's fleet.

◆ Aquitaine Mu­seum

20, cours Pas­teur, 33 (0)5 56 01 51 00 www.musee-aquitaine-bordeaux.com Open ev­ery day from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm Closed Mon­days and Bank Hol­i­days

Tram line B, stop Musée d’aquitaine

'Le France', a mer­chant ship built around 1840, de­posit of the great sea­port of Bordeaux.

‘La Garonne’, an al­le­gory of the river by D. Félix Mag­gesi, 1851.

Sculpted ele­phants tusks, Equa­to­rial Africa.

A unique and var­ied col­lec­tion.

The Cu­ra­tor of Aquitaine Mu­seum François Hu­bert be­fore the re­con­struc­tion of gro­cery store in the 1930’s.

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