Thursday, June 3, 2010

Le Musée de Bretagne

Le Musée de Bretagne, a wonderful museum in Rennes that reopened in new quarters in 2006, helps visitors learn about Breton peoples and cultures. I say peoples and cultures because the Breton peninsula has been home to several different groups, including pre-Celtic neolithic peoples, the Celtic Gauls, Romans and Romanized Gauls, and Britons, who, fleeing the Anglo-Saxon and Scots invaders starting in the late 4th Century, settled here and gave the area its name, Brittany, and a language, Breton. While the Britons/Bretons primarily settled in the west of Brittany, the east remained primarily Gaulish Gallo-Roman, with its own language, Gallo, a Romance language. To this day, the Breton/Gallo distinction is still reflected in the division of the Basse-Bretagne and Haute-Bretagne departments.

The museum is housed in an exciting building, called Les Champs Libres, that also contains a science museum, planatarium, and library. From the building's second floor (counting like Americans where the first floor is the ground floor), you can see the library's walls rising within the building.

The museum's permanent expositions are well-done, with lots of interactive and audio-visual exhibits. I can't really show you the interactive aspects here, but I thought I would at least show a few of the items on pre-Roman Brittany that caught my eye. These pottery pieces from the early neolithic age, about 6,700 years ago, were found in the nearby village of Saint-Etienne-en-Coglès. Note the decorative elements on pieces probably intended for storage.

The Gauls, before the arrival of the Roman Legion, maintained a culture with thriving trade. They minted coins, such as those seen here.

The Gauls' trade meant that they exported some materials and imported others. This marvelous bowl of the 1st or 2nd Century CE, with its designs in relief, came from Rome.

The museum also helps visitors understand the living cultural heritage of all these influences. One particularly interesting exhibit was a video showing speakers of Gaelic, Breton, Manx, and Gallo. The speaker of Breton discussed how she was raising her child to speak Breton.

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