At the Heart of the Immense Wave: National Maritime Museum in Paris

On November 17, 2023, the National Naval Museum at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris will reopen. Ouest-France is offering a series of new reports and content on the renovation and transformation of this museum from November 9 to December 18, 2023. Today’s report focuses on the section called “Storms and Shipwrecks” with Clémence Laurent, assistant to the project manager for museum layout.

This section is unique and offers an immersive experience that confronts visitors with the sea’s violence, perils, mysteries, and disappearances. The section is divided into three parts: before the wave, the storm, and after the storm.

Before the wave, visitors can explore paintings by romantic artists that depict shipwrecks and storms. These paintings allow visitors to understand the various interpretations of the sea throughout the centuries.

Among the artworks on display are pieces by Théodore Gudin, whose monumental paintings represent shipwrecks far from the coast. The large-scale dramatic compositions aimed to create a sense of the sublime and confront viewers with the power of nature and the vulnerability of humans facing it.

In the middle of the space, items recovered from different shipwrecks are on display, including a buoy, a ball of oil from the Prestige oil spill, and a black sailor’s stocking found after a shipwreck.

Visitors are also introduced to the theme of survival at sea through the display of distress flares and emergency rations. The museum has taken care to make the content accessible to all, including people with disabilities through audio description stations.

The section concludes with a film showcasing scenes from famous movies involving the sea as a link to the museum’s future temporary exhibition dedicated to the sea and cinema.

Next, visitors enter the tumultuous area with an immersive sound designed to engage all the senses. The section features cabinets showcasing the theme of survival at sea, including a life raft and other essential supplies.

The space also addresses the impact of shipwrecks on various communities, including fishers, sailors, and migrants. A life jacket from the Aquarius, a ship involved in rescuing migrants, is on display to highlight the human dimension of sea tragedies.

The wave exhibit also includes a space dedicated to La Pérouse, the French explorer who disappeared at sea in 1788. The exhibit features a bust of the maritime officer and recounts the various expeditions launched to search for him and his crew.

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