Once again, the Musée des Confluences de Lyon offers to explore civilizations around the world. His new exhibition entitled To the end of the world, missionary gazes, presents objects collected during the missions of men of faith in the 19th century. On view until May 8, 2022.
The exhibition presents a hundred pieces brought back from all over the world, associating them with the life paths of the men of faith who collected them. These objects, ritual or customary, testify to cultures hitherto unrecognized. They are today the witnesses of a successful integration of these evangelizers in often “hostile” ground. “It is undoubtedly a very amazing life experience”, enthuses a visitor. “Already today with current technology, there are places where we would not necessarily go, so at the time it was even more admirable of them”, notes another.
Each set is associated with a short portrait of the missionary. Throughout the course and the continents, archive images contextualize the collection or the mission. Two large display cases at the back of the room present series of reduced models of boats and musical instruments, from all geographies.
On the ground, faced with often difficult territories and climates, with foreign languages and customs, each missionary must invent an appropriate approach. Some will develop scientific skills: “These missionaries who, at the beginning, set out to propagate the faith for the purpose of evangelization, are endlessly curious. Some specialize in entomology, others in cartography and they bring back objects which bear witness to their life”, explains Cédric Lesec, director of external relations and distribution.
Most of the time, these items were given to missionaries. Today they constitute valuable ethnographic and anthropological documentation for contemporary researchers. “By its study and its presentation, this collection does not only open a window on the past: it updates our understanding of the peoples of the world and questions our successive representations of these cultures”, details Hélène Lafont-Couturier, general manager of the Musée des Confluences. Images broadcast on screen accompany these audible testimonies of women and men on mission to the four corners of the world.
These missions were born in Lyon at the beginning of the 19th century with the foundation of the Work for the Propagation of the Faith. Created at the initiative of Pauline-Marie Jaricot this association was intended to support (financially and otherwise) priests and religious Catholic missionaries.
During their evangelization missions, men and women leave for Asia, Africa, Oceania or the Americas from where they bring back objects. Some of them are also sent to Lyon as a gift and to testify to their presence at the end of the world. Since 1979, the Musée des Confluences, which inherited the collection from the Musée Guimet, has been the custodian of some 2,300 objects belonging to the Pontifical Mission Societies.
Exhibition “Until the end of the world, missionary views” at the Musée des Confluences in Lyon until May 8, 2022