Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
This past semester, I was able to conduct research in Paris, during the spring break of the London program, thanks to receiving a travel enrichment grant. My project involved visiting two major museums, the Musee National des Arts Asiatiques Guiment (Museum of Asian Art) and the Musee de la Musique (Museum of Music). I have had significant French language and cultural background from four years of study in high school, I have maintained a significant interest in Francophone culture. Also, due to my background interests in Asian art and aesthetics as well as in music, my project was a natural extension of all three of these personal interests.
For the first day of my project, I visited the Muse National des Arts Asiatiques Guiment. The museum boasts of a large collection of art and artifacts from across East and Southeast Asia. The collection is notably large in areas in India and Vietnam, parts where the French had maintained a colonial presence. Of particular interest to me were artifacts from India, such as a small stupa (pictured), as well as several Chinese armoires, inlaid with intricate patterns in opal. What I found remarkable about the artifacts and the overall aesthetic of the collection was the level of intricate detail, yet the durability of these artifacts to survive for many centuries intact.
On the following day, I visited the Musee de la Musique, the museum part of the Cite de la Musique, which is a major performance space in Paris.
The museum had quite a large selection of instruments from the Baroque period spanning into the present day, in the advent of electronic music. Not only was it interesting to see how instruments evolved through the centuries, but it was also enlightening to see how historical events altered the role of music in French as well as greater European culture. The museum also had regular in-residence musicians who would perform on some of the instruments in traditional pieces of the particular period. My visit gave me a very interesting tangible as well as auditory experience of the historical evolution of music.
Through the brief time that I was able to spend in Paris, I was able to explore my interests in music and Asian art through the context of Francophone culture. As I quickly discovered in my semester in London, Paris as well maintains a strong affinity for defending their past through preserving historical and cultural artifacts for the education of their own citizens as well as international visitors.