The Colonial Museum of Marseille: Empire and object in France’s ‘Porte de l’Orient’

The Colonial Museum of Marseille: Empire and object in France’s ‘Porte de l’Orient’ Abstract France’s colonial museums of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries now stand as vestiges of the past, their collections reassigned to different institutions around the country or repurposed intellectually to address issues of the contemporary era. Colonial museums’ ethnographic collections have received the lion’s share of historical inquiry, given the important role that these objects – used to represent indigenous peoples – came to play in French political and public debate over the morality of the imperial civilizing mission. This article examines a different kind of colonial museum, one that took shape in an important regional hub of imperial France and offered a more prosaic argument for expanding beyond French borders. Focusing on the Colonial Museum of Marseille, which opened in 1893, the article interrogates a collecting logic that eschewed any civilizing rationale and instead targeted everyday objects in order to make the case for the domestic, quotidian, and provincial benefits of French colonialism. In 1901, Jules Charles-Roux, an influential colonial campaigner from the French port city of Marseille, sent a report to France’s Minister of the Colonies.1 The report in question summarized the active role played by the Ministry of the Colonies in the planning and execution of the Universal Exhibition of 1900, held in Paris. More specifically, Charles-Roux highlighted the participation of the Colonial Museum of Marseille, which had lent objects for display that were, to his mind, unique among such collections. For the middling visitor, he opined, a colonial museum might call to mind ‘poison arrow collections’. For Charles-Roux, these objects titillated visitors who were intrigued by their otherness but then just as quickly forgot them as exotic oddities. The Marseille colonial museum, on the other hand, ‘responds to something very much needed’, he asserted.2 Housed in a six-storey building in the city centre and backed by the Chamber of Commerce, Marseille’s élite had aimed to fill the museum with ‘useful’ objects of empire: grains, oils, extracts, and the consumer products they rendered. A year before the Universal Exhibition of 1900 took place, the director of the Marseille museum, Dr Edouard Heckel, had himself offered an account of the necessity of his establishment. As its founder and head, Heckel prepared a long pamphlet entitled, ‘A Notice on the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille’. Written for subsequent circulation at the Universal Exhibition,3 Heckel’s tract sought to convince readers of a particular set of means and ends of imperial expansion and to define France’s colonial projects as uniquely tied to Marseille.4 He presented his museum as a showcase that celebrated the colonial resources and products made possible through Marseille’s role as the nation’s principal colonial port city. Known as France’s ‘Porte de l’Orient’ (‘Gateway to the Orient’) and ‘Capital of the Colonies’, the Mediterranean city had a unique identity and position. Its compass often pointed towards ports abroad rather than northwards to Paris.5 Not only was its overseas trade the most significant in France (at 58 per cent), but it was a literal end and beginning of the physical metropole, with heavy industrial and passenger ferry traffic to North and West Africa by the end of the nineteenth century.6 Given Marseille’s role in the colonial economy, Heckel represented the city as ideally suited to speak for the interrelated benefits of empire, science, and business. Promoting the colonial project for its utilitarian and commercial benefits, Heckel’s museum eschewed messages of humanitarian work or cultural advancement – the French ‘civilizing mission’ – as a rationale for empire. Instead, the Colonial Museum showcased the profits of applied science. The principles upheld by the Marseille museum nuance the general thesis of the French ‘republican civilizing mission’; its collections reflect conjunctions of French politics, colonial economics, provincial networks, and popular culture that help us better understand how empire was observed and experienced within metropolitan France.7 Heckel’s work in Marseille serves as a reminder that we must be careful about overstating the civilizing mission’s powers of indoctrination, and mindful of the differentiated understandings of empire that existed in France and how those different understandings influenced collecting projects and presentations. As France began to make the transition from a ‘conquest phase’ of empire that had marked the 1880s, its élite politicians and business leaders struggled to define, plan, and implement the next phase of empire. It was in this moment that the Marseille museum injected a dictum of personal prosperity through empire into the debate. Rational, regional, yet still republican, the museum’s leaders and backers sought to influence policy debate on colonialism at the fin-de-siècle and competed with other public expressions of French empire manifested at exhibitions and fairs, and in the Paris-based museums. This article will consider three aspects in which Heckel’s museum shows how under-examined collecting logics, rooted in specific places, can reveal the multiplicity of ideologies that animated French empire. First, the Marseille museum as described by Heckel suggests that hallmarks of state republican culture – museums, scientific laboratories, and educational institutions – actively sought to speak their own private language of colonial doctrine. In the case of the Marseille museum, that colonial doctrine rested on a premise of non-moralized opportunity to bring science to bear on colonial raw materials for private economic benefit within France. The economic benefit, for that matter, was meant to do more than enrich the pockets of the industrialist factory owner who produced consumer goods from colonial materials: Heckel also intended to show how colonialism would raise the living standards of the French families who purchased that factory’s new wares. Second, Heckel’s Marseille institution reflected the city’s particular stake in French colonialism. Surpassing France’s Atlantic coast ports in colonial trade in the 1830s, by the 1880s half of all French colonial tonnage passed through Marseille.8 If Marseille’s leaders saw their city as uniquely tied to the colonies by the end of the nineteenth century, they also saw ‘Paris’ policies as consistently undermining their interests.9 The Colonial Museum became a way for the business élite of Marseille to propagate their stance on debates over the political economy of empire that remained abstract for much of the French public. Finally, Heckel’s institution in Marseille provided a variant of imperial mise en valeur. Though akin to the term’s general connotation at the time of ‘development’ or ‘optimization’, Heckel’s definition of mise en valeur eschewed the expansive projects of railways and mines being established overseas in favour of domestic appropriations – soap, margarine, and candles – that people at home in France could use. His version of imperial object made the colonies seem accessible and reliable. Created at the turn of the century, Heckel’s Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille promoted a specific form of republican colonial mission: not so much the famous mission civilisatrice but rather what we might call the mission utilisatrice. Often eclipsed in the historiography of French empire and colonial collections by focus on the mission civilisatrice, the mission utilisatrice promoted colonialism’s ultimate value as a system to bring about national prosperity at home in the metropole. This article examines Heckel’s collection as one that was principally inspired by the mission utilisatrice and seeks to show why Marseille became the site of such a museum, how the museum arranged its displays to conjure specific messages about empire, and what ultimately became of this variant on empire and its objects. Colonial museum, colonial mission From the beginning, Marseille’s Colonial Museum and Institute was driven by belief in the benefits of object-based science, colonial resources, public support, and private expertise. As a result, the museum’s mission was quite innovative for its time: to promote the cause of colonial mise en valeur to scholars, the power élite, and lay people alike. The pamphlet that director Heckel wrote for the Paris Exhibition in 1900 provides a key insight into this particular institution’s unique synthesis of private and public interests in its formulation of the French colonial project. First, Heckel’s personal pedigree helped fuse the necessary but disparate worlds of science, finance, and politics that invested the institution with influence. Second, his plan came to fruition in tandem with the public’s growing embrace of museums, applied learning, and fascination with objects and consumerism. Finally, Heckel’s colonial enterprise was unabashed about its utility as a private-public nexus, which made it a recipient of support from moneyed sectors. Who was this fervent scientist, colonialist, and Marseillais so resolute in his ideas and commitments? Edouard Heckel was a pharmacist, doctor, botanist, and for a short time a republican politician.10 Born in Toulon in south-east France in 1843, he earned a succession of scientific and medical degrees, studying for several of them while posted abroad as a naval pharmacist, first in Martinique and then in New Caledonia. After a variety of appointments, Heckel finally settled in the Chair of Botany at the Faculty of Sciences of Marseille in 1877, and remained there until his death in 1916. He was also briefly director of the Museum of Natural History (1877–9) in Marseille, director of the city’s botanical gardens, and an author published in ‘journals of the capital,’ as he described them.11 Heckel, in other words, had not only scientific expertise but also extensive experience in the colonies, in France, and in Marseille.12 By the time he opened his museum in 1893, the founding director had accrued the authority and network necessary to attract financial support and in-kind donations. Heckel was also offering something that people in Marseille and republic an France increasingly wanted to see – objects. Heckel was proud of his personal and professional experiences that culminated in the Marseille museum. He described its origins as a private undertaking in nature, driven foremost by his own vision: Untouched from the very beginning by the precariousness and delays that always result from conflicts over ideas and between people, [and] realized according to a long-studied plan by a long-time colonialist, [the Colonial Museum] rapidly went through the phases of evolution that brought it to its current state; this state, as satisfying as it is now . . . is only just the beginning of what will come.13 Heckel spoke with justifiable confidence in himself. He had proved remarkably adept at securing backing from the Marseille Chamber of Commerce and in organizing France’s first colonial museum.14 Although most promotional material issued by Heckel – and subsequent historiographical mention – noted the museum’s founding date as 1893, not until 1896 did the collection gain a permanent space for public, scientific, and commercial visitors. Bearing the imprimatur of the Chamber of Commerce and the university’s Faculté des Sciences, France’s first colonial museum opened in its official quarters in 1896 at 63 Boulevard des Dames, in Marseille.15 Located in the branch office of the Ministry of Colonies and allocated an entire floor, Heckel’s museum had gained a home free of charge, but at the price of appealing to certain visitors over others. Sitting in the new port district of Marseille, the La Joliette neighbourhood, the location facilitated visits from traders, merchant seamen, and colonial officials. On the other hand, this same location placed it far enough away from the Canebière area, where tourists strolled and local élite met socially, that Heckel soon began noticing the site’s shortcomings.16 Nevertheless, he began to fill the vitrines of the new museum with objects – raw materials such as seeds, nuts, oils, grains – and examples of what Marseille’s leading industries could make from those materials: flour, medicines, tiles, and latex, among other products.17 Blocks of Marseille’s famous putty green and ecru-white soaps, the gentle lather deriving from a composite of vegetable oils that increasingly came from African colonies, sat in the display cases. Stamped with the distinctive ‘Savon de Marseille’ so long as they contained at least 72 per cent vegetable oil and no animal fats, the bars would have been choice samples of the hundreds of thousands of tons produced in the city and surrounding area each year. On the collection, a colleague would later recall that Heckel had always categorized the Colonial Museum’s objects in utilitarian terms: ‘The products (produits) of this Museum should not be considered in their own right . . . but rather from a commercial point of view.’18 The specimens he had personally assembled while on overseas service comprised the museum’s earliest collection. Heckel’s associates in the colonies also contributed material, most of which, he noted, came unbidden and in testament to the eager support for such an institution. In the pamphlet written in 1900, a list of donations appeared at the end.19 The register, though incomplete, provided an idea of who contributed which objects. Of nearly 100 donors, almost all were listed as ‘French’. Most donations came from individuals, though a few companies also featured and several professions predominated: doctors and pharmacists; colonial administrators and army personnel; natural scientists and scholars; and industrialists and traders. The objects they sent comprised a rich representation of colonial specimens, with certain categories prevailing, mainly natural history specimens (natural latex deriving from the gutta tree, wood samples, seeds, and shells). Visitors to the museum’s display at the 1900 Exhibition might have momentarily paused over samples of iboga, an African shrub whose root bark Heckel described as sought after by indigenous tribes for its psychedelic properties. Readers of the ‘Notice’ would have learned how the museum in Marseille displayed hundreds more objects, arranged by geographical provenance, so that the iboga’s knotty roots sat alongside other African specimens, such as purplish-brown seeds from the owala tree.20 They would also have learned that the museum was bursting at the seams; Heckel noted how the museum had outgrown its space over the course of seven years – perhaps an oblique request to his benefactors for new quarters.21 Heckel quoted an average number of twenty visitors per day in 1899 and described the gallery as ‘visited regularly and assiduously by the public to whom it is open every day, excluding Monday.’22 Such regular attendance figures would be in keeping with the nineteenth-century public’s embrace of museums.23 Converging with the pedagogical theory of object-based learning, museums offered visitors a textural experience, a place where they could practise the leçon de choses.24 Heckel’s institute conveyed firm belief in the colonial objects’ ability to teach and convince the public of colonialism’s innumerable benefits.25 To this end, he proudly noted the museum’s didactic display of specimens set alongside the products they could render: [T]he Araucaria [a type of evergreen found New Caledonia] . . . produced a gum resin of which the gum is an arabin and also a resin product comparable to copal that can be used to make thick varnish or shellac.26 Thus we display together the gum, the resin, and the varnish that they produce.27 The Marseille museum encouraged visitors to approach with a domestic buyer’s mentality, to the point that Heckel’s ‘Notice’ of 1900 summoned up the text from a store catalogue as much as it did scientific description: Madagascar, a new French possession, is for the moment slightly less represented at the Museum. However, the visitor can stop in interest to look at the cases holding samples of rock crystal, rubber, vanilla . . . silk ribbons and vegetal fibres . . . and the fruits of the voyager tree that are a beautiful blue.28 Heckel’s ‘Notice’ described in such a manner nearly every object mentioned. While the place of origin was always noted, focus remained resolutely on the objects’ uses as consumable products and the capacity of French-based industry to render them so. A focus on consumption prevailed in the Marseille Colonial Museum in general. Such a world view was not necessarily unique; scholars have suggested that similarities existed between the era’s museums and department stores.29 Becoming public sites in nearly the same era, both functioned as visible and celebrated galleries that a person might visit in order to consume, make comparisons, and commune with an abundance of collected objects. Such a modality of spectatorship combined with consumerism certainly seems apt in the case of Heckel’s museum. There, consumption was not so much subliminally facilitated as clearly encouraged by its exhibition displays and prevailing philosophy. It comes as little surprise that, following a major overhaul financed by Marseille’s Chamber of Commerce, the Colonial Museum re-opened in 1907 with an additional ‘commercial museum’ devoted to all the colonial products manufactured in France. The Museum had become part shop.30 Marseille’s institution thus fashioned itself as a site where colonialism merged with consumerism. Here, it might be helpful to pose several questions – what other museums embraced the title and definition colonial?; how did the Marseille museum define itself as colonial?; and by comparison, how did Heckel’s colonial museum benefit from its individual definition? Heckel defined his colonial museum as having three essential components: colonial matter, a scientific method, and a practicable mission. ‘Our colonies . . . are a raw material that are only worth what we do to them’, he wrote. ‘There you have it, in several words, the genesis and raison d’être for what is today, in full scientific prosperity, the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille.’31 This outlook becomes more significant when one considers the comparative landscape. No other such institution existed in France in 1900. Heckel both boasted and lamented that Paris did not yet have a colonial museum, outpaced in this regard by London, Berlin, Brussels, and Haarlem.32 Even then, Heckel’s analogue institutions in Europe tended to feature more ethnography and mechanical technology than his botanical-heavy and applied science approach. The Marseille museum’s self-definition as ‘colonial museum’ was decidedly more about utility, consumption and everyday life than its European counterparts. As a result, the museum benefited from its clear message and appeal to certain sectors of business and society. Marseille’s industrialists, traders, wine dealers, shipping magnates, and bankers invested in the city’s colonial museum, making it the public, scholarly, and philanthropic agent and beneficiary of their imperial interests.33 Marseille: capital of the metropole The ‘Notice’ prepared by Heckel for the Universal Exhibition in Paris was not just about his institution; it was also a homage to the Marseillais who had embraced his project. Heckel recognized the reciprocity that bound his colonial museum to certain interests in Marseille. Indeed, plenty of evidence points to a close partnership. The museum depended on the city’s commercial sector for its financial and reputational livelihood. The Chamber of Commerce provided primary support to Heckel’s undertaking, and Charles-Roux had given the museum international exposure by earmarking space for it at the Exhibition of 1900. Heckel’s pamphlet for that same event conveys a sense of collaboration. He asserts that his work on oleaginous seeds had led to innovations in Marseille’s soap, candles, and cooking fat industries. The Museum and Institute also made it part of its mission to serve Marseillais business interests by identifying specimens brought in from the colonies. Traders, merchant seamen, and colonial officials could deposit samples at Heckel’s institution and solicit help in identifying them. Members of Marseille’s Colonial Institute, founded in 1893 alongside the Museum, could also ask for help in identifying specimens; consult dossiers on the collections’ individual objects; or obtain the names of Marseille industrialists who might want to make use of such specimens.34 Such a union sheds light on broader questions about French republican ethos, regional attitudes, and the colonial project’s capacity to destabilize and divide loyalty. An institution like Heckel’s ostensibly championed the French republican empire yet also believed in and remained bounded by the interests of a more local constituency. The generation to which Heckel and his most influential backers belonged has come to be seen as distinctly republican, but also distinctly associated with Paris, the hub of the centralizing French state.35 Born in the early 1840s, both Heckel and his major benefactor, Jules Charles-Roux, were entering their professional prime when the French Third Republic finally seemed set to become a permanent fixture. Both men enjoyed brief careers in republican politics, representing the more moderate politics of the Opportunists.36 They valued education, science, hygiene, economic liberalism, and above all, overseas expansion. For Heckel and Charles-Roux, empire provided the optimal outlet for republican progress. With respective careers in applied tropical botany, industry, and shipping, it also met their professional interests. Marseille’s élite, in general, adopted a similar position. With these regional ties in mind, historical studies of republican debate on colonial policy must take into account the particular circumstances and interests of Marseille vis-à-vis colonialism. Marseille was a republican city and an imperial port, yes; but its local interests – at least those reflected by Heckel’s museum – gave it a particular definition.37 In spite of Paris, Marseillais élite wanted to speak for France. Thus Heckel had the confidence to state: ‘This institution is conscious of the high expectations entrusted it and desires to maintain Marseille’s well deserved title of Metropole of French Colonies.’38 The local élite’s methods of imposing its own colonial concerns on the national stage took several forms. First, certain Marseillais exerted significant influence within the French colonial lobby. Both an external pressure-group and a loose political bloc in Parliament, the colonial lobby demanded an end to economic protectionism, arguing that import-export charges crippled colonial development. Many of Marseille’s businesses with colonial interests took a firm position behind and within the colonial lobby. Charles-Roux was one of its most outspoken and well-spoken advocates, following two precepts: that ‘a strong colonial economy was desirable in itself’ and that ‘French commercial interests in the colonies were being sacrificed in favour of the protectionist inclinations of French agriculture.’39 Charles-Roux and the Chamber of Commerce of Marseille took positions that favoured the industries of Marseille, championing liberal taxes and tariffs on colonial imports such as wheat from North Africa. This stance put them at odds with parliamentarians from areas of France where agriculture remained the dominant sector of the economy. Perhaps out of frustration with the frequent paralysis of political negotiations on colonial economy at the national level, Marseillais business interests sought new means of materializing their concerns: the use of patented republican institutions – education, science, and museums – to express opinions on national policies of Empire.40 Marseille increasingly fashioned itself as the ‘Porte coloniale’ of France and found a convenient nexus of republican values and regional colonial strategy in Heckel’s initiatives. These included not only the museum but also a Colonial Institute. Whereas the museum had the intention of ‘illustrating to the general public the prosperity of the French colonies’, the Institute focused on specialized constituencies that often overlapped – scientists, fee-paying members, and students planning colonial careers.41 In this last aspect, Heckel anticipated a movement toward the diffusion of colonial training, so that provincial capitals had more direct involvement. That movement crystalized in the campaign to decentralize the École Coloniale in Paris, the traditional training ground of France’s colonial bureaucrats. Along with other major trading cities, Marseille requested the right for its Chamber of Commerce to train colonial administrators in order to produce graduates sensitive to local concerns. The government denied the request on the grounds that such a structure would produce cohorts too sensitive to local interests.42 The cities therefore sought other options, such as setting up their own Institutes. These Institutes would train students not for colonial service but rather for the private sector.43 In 1898, Heckel proposed to the Marseille Chamber of Commerce that it join with his already-established Institute on such a project. Two years later, Heckel’s ‘Notice’ for the Paris Exhibition predicted a success story and he wrote excitedly that the Chamber of Commerce would soon be endowing six chairs in History of Plant Products, History of Animal Products and Parasitology of Plants and Animals, Mineralogy and Geology, History and Geography, Legislation and Economy, and Climatology, Epidemiology and Hygiene.44 Rather than the university setting that Heckel had intended, however, it was the École du Commerce that ended up housing the Institute’s colonial chairs and courses.45 Though lacking documentation to explain this change, we might speculate that the Faculté des Sciences deemed the colonial courses to be too political, or perhaps concerns grew about crossing swords with the Paris-based École Coloniale, even if it meant crossing instead the Marseille Chamber of Commerce.46 The insular nature of the colonial science pursued by Heckel’s initiatives – at a distance from other university colleagues’ burgeoning work in the human sciences – may help explain why the museum remained resolute in its curatorial preference for natural specimens and uninterested in widening its collection to take in more ethnographic, archaeological, and architectural pieces. Another explanation lies in the critical role that the Chamber continued to play in the museum’s ability to function. If the Chamber saw no profit in displaying art, weapons, tools, or mosaics from Algeria or Indochina, it was not in Heckel’s interest to insist on the point. It was a felicitous union in that respect, as Heckel also appears to have had little desire for more cultural artefacts. The Marseille Chamber of Commerce, as this example attests, joined forces regularly with Heckel on colonial initiatives; it became, in fact, his biggest supporter, providing an annual subsidy to the Museum and Institute. Its name appeared at the top of the donor index printed in Heckel’s ‘Notice’ of 1900. The ‘Notice’ also recognized the chamber’s own donations to the museum’s collection (rum, orange wine, pineapple wine, etc.) and the chamber’s salutary policy of advising out-of-town traders and industrialists bearing colonial specimens to offer them as donations to the museum.47 The most significant sign of support was Charles-Roux’s inclusion of the museum at the 1900 Exhibition. As commissioner of the Exhibition’s colonial section, he made sure that his home-town institution played a part.48 Such financial support and esteem for its mission no doubt brought Heckel much pride and prominence. His institute was not just a beneficiary, however, as it provided Marseille’s business community with reciprocal gains: the imprimatur of a scholarly institution as well as scientific innovations that directly benefited the city’s industries. The colonial museum thus pursued work that enhanced local profits, netted financial and in-kind returns that followed, and legitimated and propagated a specifically liberalist definition of colonial economic development. By 1907, the Chamber of Commerce decided to move the museum into a more accessible location for the general public. Following a successful showing at the 1906 Colonial Exhibition in Marseille, where 1,800,000 visitors toured fifty-nine acres filled with pavilions, human subjects, and simulated colonial street scenes, the museum seemed representative of the port city’s imperial ascendency.49 After the exhibition, the city’s supporters openly embraced the sobriquet ‘capital of the metropole’, implying that Paris was for France but that Marseille was for la plus Grande France. That seeming apogee of colonial power, however, was soon challenged by events within France and beyond it. And Heckel’s influence, despite the success of the exhibition in 1906 and the new building for his museum, also plateaued in the years to come. A collection of applied science In 1907 the new museum and institute opened in a stately stone building dating from the mid-nineteenth century, at 5 Rue Noailles.50 Stretching along the second floor of the long building, the museum now had more space, as did the component parts of Heckel’s institution. The Rue Noailles offered many advantages for the museum’s stated mission of serving the public, a goal that the 1906 Colonial Exhibition had reinvigorated. In addition to the museum, the new building featured an information centre on the first floor, where visitors could obtain details on any aspect pertaining to colonial issues.51 And as a continuation of the Canebière, Marseille’s historic main street, the Rue Noailles now placed the Colonial Museum at the heart of the city. It was surrounded by the business and tourist districts, close to prestigious schools, and only steps away from the old port and the Bourse, the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce.52 Although the opening times of the new museum remain obscure, we might assume that it carried over the operating hours of its former location, that is Tuesday through Friday from 9.00 in the morning to 12.00 noon, and from 2.00 to 5.00 in the afternoon.53 In terms of what visitors saw, no catalogue seems to have succeeded the inventory provided by Heckel in his 1900 ‘Notice’, so here we must resort to careful conjecture. The ‘Notice’ had focused mainly on the natural history specimens of the collection. Describing the floor plan in the old building, Heckel had sketched out a gallery in which glazed horizontal and vertical cases occupied the centre of the room and lined the walls. The flora and fauna were arranged in the cabinets to facilitate two kinds of observation: comparative work and synthetic work, the latter implying an understanding of what the specimens could render. ‘Bulky objects’, Heckel noted in the ‘List’, ‘such as capes and jackets, parasols, weapons, costumes, canoes, figurines, and musical instruments are hung on free wall space, between the windows, and in the window recesses.’54 Such ethnographic objects did, therefore, comprise part of the collection, but Heckel consigned them to the margins. His curt description gave the impression that these objects were not arranged to accommodate comparative work, or other types of research; whether they even bore labels is unclear. It seems doubtful that the new museum at Rue Noailles, though more commodious, would have inspired its curator-head, trained as a botanist and pharmacologist, to take measures to enhance the display of what he impassively referred to as ‘bulky objects’. Though Charles-Roux and the colonial lobby sometimes invoked indigenous concerns, historians have considered their sincerity with scepticism.55 Heckel seems hardly to have invoked them at all; at least in the ‘Notice’, no mention of indigenous peoples appeared in the 108-page text. He maintained a resolutely scientific and amoral focus on applied science’s benefits for French health and nutrition, Marseille’s industries, and French colonial settlers and soldiers. What does this omission say about Heckel and his institution? Does it betray a founder who was singularly focused on economic exploitation? Or does it reflect a drive to innovate, no matter the human cost? Scholarship has pointed out that the argument for mise en valeur (development) came to encompass ‘native development’ well before 1900. Heckel’s silence on the civilizing mission, therefore, seems conspicuous. It is perhaps imprudent to read too much – such as an attempt at racial erasure – into this omission. What seems more appropriate is to detect instead his overriding belief in empire’s prosaic benefits: every day, any French person could profit from it. Heckel’s understanding of colonial development promised metropolitan France a pivotal position. It was in France – Marseille, to be exact – where colonial objects and products would be rendered and then propagated to French citizens. In this way, France would grow rich with a bevy of new resources and techniques. Simultaneously, it could export such dividends to French colonialists in Africa, Indochina, and the South Pacific. In his ‘Notice’, Heckel provided the West African kola seed as one example. He had experimented with it at the Colonial Museum’s greenhouse and then had it exported to the Antilles, Guyana, Madagascar, and Indochina for its anti-diarrheal properties.56 Extracting what he referred to as the seed’s ‘excitable’ properties, he had also invented a ‘condensed galette’ to aid tired soldiers. Despite the utility of his experiments in hygiene and agriculture, it bears repeating that there was no mention in the text of such applied benefits for the colonized subjects. His passion was not to convert the colonized (to religion or republicanism) but rather to persuade the French of the everyday wonders afforded by colonial trade and applied science. An appreciation of these new products, so the logic went, could enhance colonial settlement, desire at home for empire, and a more robust French economy and standard of living. For Heckel, colonial development was a means of improving French life while imparting his appreciation for seemingly minor scientific material and inventions. Such a principle informed the objects the Marseille museum collected, experimented on, and promoted to industrialists and the public. A list of its products sent up to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 revealed such quotidian goals. Roughly 200 objects were on temporary display at the Place du Trocadéro, grouped into five categories: edible agricultural products of a vegetal base, inedible agricultural products, instruments used to extract tree sap and gum, copies of the Museum and Institute’s scholarly journal for sale, and plant-based medicinal treatments.57 Heckel’s account of the permanent collection confirmed the prevailing esteem for everyday products. Oilseeds – Heckel’s specialty – had a prominent place in the collection at Marseille. He noted the use of the o’dika seed in ‘a very nutritious bread, of a taste similar to cacao, and a butter that can be used by pharmaceutics’.58 The owala seed, likewise, had pleased a Marseille company, Maison Fournier, for the high quality of candles it rendered, producing sticks ‘that look like porcelain, which melt at higher temperatures than ordinary candles . . . These candles, as well as soap and glycerin produced as by-products . . . are on display at the Museum.’59 The Marseille Colonial Museum’s interpretation of French colonial development was arguably small-scale and accessible in its usefulness, but its delivery of information must be described as arcane at times. Heckel and his team puzzled over an insular type of science and invariably used scientific description to share their findings. The ‘Notice’ prepared for the Universal Exhibition – ostensibly aimed at a wide audience – in fact reflected the Marseille group’s parochial nature. Difficult as it is to gauge the reader’s grasp of science in 1900, it seems a safe conclusion that Heckel’s text did not make for a gripping or general read. Its basic overview of the museum’s objects may have proved simple enough: ‘In the rows reserved for Senegal, one finds peanuts from Rufisque and Joal, rubber, clay, rice, and Copal gum . . .’60 The descriptions, however, referenced places, species, and scientific details almost certainly unfamiliar and esoteric to many readers. And articles republished in the ‘Notice’ from the Colonial Museum’s journal, the Annales, clearly required a familiarity with botanical science.61 With the exception of ethnological artefacts – which Heckel noted but relegated to a position of secondary interest – the museum represented in this ‘Notice’ can be described as (arguably) it saw itself: as a pantry or medicine chest of useful products with dense labels and specific applications.62 What remained in question was how valuable they would be seen over time – politically, socially, and museographically. The trajectory of the Colonial Museum once established at Rue Noailles is obscure. No catalogue seems to have supplanted the 1900 ‘Notice’, and we know more about the later years of the associated Institute, which left behind traces of sustained attempts to intervene in national colonial policy-making, as well as colonial instruction at Marseille’s École du Commerce until 1940.63 Although the museum reported a popular appetite for its collections based on visitor traffic at the 1906 Colonial Exhibition in Marseille, it appears that the new central location led to no sudden expansion of its public. Instead, by the time the Great War was over, the museum had again moved: to the first floor of the natural science building at the Faculté des Sciences.64 It remained there until 1962 as the ‘Colonial Museum of Marseille’, out of range of a widespread audience and embracing its new (and original) role as a university collection. We must read between the years to understand why. Conclusion At the heart of the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille was not the famous mission civilisatrice. It was, rather, the mission utilisatrice, a vision of empire characterized by economic motivation and locally based interests, but also a belief in the quotidian benefits of colonialism for the average French person. What contemporary republicans were framing as the moral demands and dividends of empire constituted an unnecessary variable in Heckel’s view.65 Colonies brought novel objects and profitable things into France; businessmen and many scientists tended to see the colonial enterprise through this lens. Heckel seems to have envisioned a benign imperialism, or at least one in which he failed or refused to consider the ramifications entailed in his mission utilisatrice. His vision could justly be described as myopic, and not just for being blind to colonialism’s insidious qualities. His focus was also narrowed on the regional trade of one southern port. In this way, study of the Colonial Museum offers a window for better understanding of provincial imperialisms and specifically Marseillais imperialism. Certain interests in Marseille parted ways with other visions of empire. The Ministry of Colonies’ grand designs for African infrastructure were different from Heckel’s domestic designs for imperial products. If Heckel’s vision was so specific, what significance does his museum institution have for the historical record? Here it may be suggested that Heckel’s institution is revealing as a historical object for the very fact that it faded away, as well as for the scant historiographical treatment that institutions like it have received. On the one hand, its withdrawal from the historical record lies partly in its location, so important to its founding. By 1913, the colonies represented only 20 per cent of the traffic passing in and out of Marseille’s port. Market forces meant that many Marseille industrialists bought peanut oil from India if it out-priced its equivalent from French West Africa.66 The colonial economy’s fluctuations during and following World War i also meant that the Marseille museum and institute now faced a more sceptical base. Historians have described the city in 1928, on the eve of economic depression, as one that had seen commerce come to a halt during the war, followed by anxious troop movements and mass loss of life in the trenches, and then a marked increase in immigration throughout the 1920s.67 The city’s economic, social, and political composition was changing, and Heckel’s institutional representation of empire and its object no longer fitted quite as well in Marseille. Here it is helpful to delineate the intended audience of the collection after World War i. Its move to the Faculté des Sciences after 1918 implies that an academic constituency still found it useful for research on flora and fauna from colonial settings. The loosening of the relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, indicates a shift away from a broader commercial or civilian public. Heckel’s death in 1916, and the consequent change in leadership, could partly explain this disengagement. All of these explanations probably bear some weight. But other, more cultural factors also account for the fading away of Marseille’s Colonial Museum. I will conclude by gesturing toward one cultural process, namely the rise of the ethnographic museum. Heckel had collected objects for his enterprise in a bid to influence the public at large, not just the captains of industry and trade, so it is reasonable to speculate on the museum’s success with the public as the years progressed. There is evidence that the Colonial Museum’s general ethos and collecting logic changed little over its first fifteen years, including the period when it moved to Rue Noailles.68 Public opinion, however, was not stagnant, at least not toward museums. While much of the public remained relatively detached or disinterested in economic debate about the colonies, the same public became more interested in museum representation of life in the colonies, especially after thousands of colonial troops and labourers had spent the war years in France and awakened broad metropolitan awareness of the people of ‘la plus Grande France’. In this sense, a more vivacious kind of ‘colonial museum’ was stealing the limelight from Heckel’s tree nuts, anti-diarrheal galettes, and cotton fibres. Ethnography and its ‘poison arrow collections’ gained prominence in France over the first half of the twentieth century.69 Even if the public remained ambivalent about whether or not civilizing indigenous populations could actually be achieved, they still wanted to see the masks, musical instruments, and textiles of France’s colonized peoples. Significantly, when Marseille hosted a follow-up Colonial Exhibition in 1922, ethnographic exhibitions held pride of place.70 And when a national Colonial Museum finally did open in Paris in 1931, the museographical focus was on ethnography, less on applied science.71 The Marseille museum, in short, seems to have modelled itself around a particularly arcane but also utilitarian vision of ‘colonial’ collection.72 Heckel, in other words, sought to popularize colonial specimens whose prosaic nature ultimately failed to appeal to widespread public interest. Tucked away in the Faculté des Sciences after World War i, the Colonial Museum henceforth served a rarified constituency – scientists – and was dissolved in 1962, the year that Algeria won independence and the French empire all but collapsed.73 In the early 1920s the French anthropologist and future founder of the Musée de l’Homme, Marcel Mauss, theorized that certain objects carried ‘inalienable’ value, accrued through the meaning attached to them by their original owners.74 The objects could not be commercialized or rendered as a result. In inalienability lay their superior cultural value, as people desired to acquire and possess what they could not completely own or reproduce. The ‘inalienable value’ of those objects no doubt made them of lesser interest to the applied botanist but arguably more exciting to French people captivated by other societies’ values. It was, ironically, the ‘civilizing mission’ that they wanted to see in a colonial museum. Heckel’s collection had set its sights on a different vision of empire. He had deliberately created a museum of alienable value. Thus while his support for a colonialism focused on exploitation of natural resources resonated powerfully for some scientists, economists, and industrialists, his colonial museum needed more than botanical specimens and botanically-derived products to succeed amongst the public: it needed a reference to man – to ‘other’ man, specifically. People increasingly understood themselves as participating in France’s empire by visiting museums of ethnography. They wanted to see the human and the ‘unusual’, concepts Heckel had deliberately shut out. His mission utilisatrice ultimately proved too ordinary for a colonial museum. Cooking oil on display did not spark a popular colonial appetite. Its value was simply not worth the trip. Acknowledgements I wish to thank Catherine Dunlop, Robert Griswold, Arianne Urus, and the anonymous reviewer for the Journal of the History of Collections for their comments on earlier versions of this article, as well as the Institute of French Studies at New York University for its financial support. Notes and references Footnotes 1 Exposition Universelle, 1900: Publication de la commission, chargée de préparer la participation du Ministère des colonies. Les colonies françaises (Paris, 1901), p. 217. 2 Ibid. 3 E. Heckel, Notice sur le Musée et l’Institut colonial de Marseille, publiée àl’occasion de l’Exposition Universelle de 1900 (Paris, 1900). 4 The notice was published at the behest of the Ministry of the Colonies, sold at the colonial section of the Universal Exposition, and distributed to all parliamentarian politicians, as well as government officials and research centers. 5 See Marcel Roncayolo, L’imaginaire de Marseille. Port, ville, pôle, vol. v:Histoire du commerce et de l’industrie de Marseille,xixe-xxe siècles (Marseille, 1990). 6 See L. Morando, ‘Les Expositions coloniales nationales de Marseille de 1906 et 1922: manifestations locales ou nationales?’, Provence Historique 54 no. 216 (2004), pp. 229–52 (at p. 229n). 7 Recent work on French empire has explored this question of popular engagement. For two examples, see Edward Berenson, Heroes of Empire: Five charismatic men and the conquest of Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2011) and the essays in the collected volume, Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and visions of empire in France, ed. Tony Chafer and Amanda Sackur (New York, 2002). 8 Michael A. Osborne, The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France (Chicago, 2014), p. 156. 9 The Méline tariff is one example. Proposed in 1892, it represented a revival of economic protectionism. Charles-Roux, then an Assembly deputy, strongly opposed the tariff, viewing its protectionist measures as detrimental to France’s southern port cities. See S. Persell, The French Colonial Lobby: 1889–1938 (Stanford, ca, 1983), pp. 314–15. 10 G. Aillaud, ‘Edouard Heckel, un savant organisateur: de la botanique appliquée à l’Exposition Coloniale de 1906’, Provence historique 43 no. 172 (1993), pp. 161–2. 11 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 26; Aillaud, op. cit. (note 10), p. 153. 12 One formative experience, Aillaud implies, was Heckel’s brush with death during a smallpox epidemic in Martinique. Perhaps as a result, by 1885 Heckel had begun to specialize in tropical botany and medicinal plants. See Aillaud, op. cit. (note 10). 13 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 1. 14 Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 165. 15 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 4. 16 Ibid., p. 7 17 Laurent Morando, ‘Les Instituts coloniaux de province (1893–1940): une action efficace?’, in L’Esprit économique imperial (1830–1970): Groupes de pression et réseaux du patronat colonial en France et dans l’empire (Paris, 2008), pp. 197–8. 18 Morando, op. cit. (note 17), n. 198. Morando is citing Emile Baillaud, L’Institut colonial de Marseille (1906–1926) (Marseille, 1927), pp. 62–3. 19 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 91–95. 20 Ibid., p. 7. 21 In a letter of May 1907 to the International Colonial Institute in Brussels, Heckel reported that the Marseille Chamber of Commerce had raised funds and arranged for a new Colonial Museum and Institute (cmim) building encompassing five floors. See ‘Compte rendu de la Session tenue à Bruxelles les 17, 18, et 19 Juin 1907’, Institut Colonial International (1907), p. 427. 22 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 11. 23 See, for example, G. Stocking (ed.), Objects and Others: Essays on museums and material culture (Madison, wi, 1985); M. Osborne, Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism (Bloomington, in, 1994); and P. Farber, ‘The transformation of natural history in the nineteenth century’, Journal of the History of Biology 15 no. 1 (1982), pp. 145–52. 24 The popularity of museums was reinforced by republican belief in ‘le leçon des choses’ – what Alice Conklin has called ‘the centerpiece of the Republic’s new scientific pedagogy’ from the late 1880s onward. See A. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The republican idea of empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, ca, 1997), p. 83. 25 Heckel suggested that the Museum’s objects had value not just for their textural character but for the pedagogical ends they facilitated: ‘These collections . . . must also serve to instruct ‘par la parole’: see Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 2. 26 The 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary defined arabin as a carbohydrate contained in gum arabic, which rendered an adhesive. Copal was defined as a resinous substance from tropical trees used chiefly in making varnishes. 27 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 8. 28 Ibid., p. 16. 29 See Tony Bennett’s theory of a nineteenth-century ‘exhibitionary complex’, derived by considering spectacles, crowds, objects, and capitalism, in The Birth of the Museum: History, politics, culture (New York, 1995). 30 See ‘Compte rendu’, op. cit. (note 21), p. 427. 31 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 1–2. 32 Ibid., p. 5n. ‘We are behind other colonizing nations, which have for a long time operated colonial museums in their capitals . . . But it is necessary to say that none of these establishments, like ours in Marseille, possesses an institute of colonial research and education attached to its museum.’ 33 See L. Morando, “L’enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940): “Imperialisme municipal” ou réussite local?’, Outre-mers: revue d’histoire 91 no. 1 (2004), pp. 272–94. 34 Morando, op. cit. (note 17), p. 198. 35 Philip Nord has argued that a generational groundswell of republican sentiment finally emerged in the 1870s. His study of the free trade- and commerce-driven young men who successfully challenged the Paris Chamber of Commerce reminds one of Charles-Roux and company: see P. Nord, The Republican Moment: Struggles for democracy in nineteenth-century France (Cambridge, ma, 1998), pp. 48–63. 36 Heckel stood for and won political election in May 1884; he resigned two years later. Charles-Roux served as a deputy to the National Assembly in 1889, ending his term when the radicals took power in 1898. 37 It should be noted that Marseille government was not subservient to the business lobby. The Socialists held control of the city council at the fin-de-siècle. See William B. Cohen, Urban Government and the Rise of the French City: Five municipalities in the nineteenth century (New York, 1998). Heckel gives no indication of local partisan debates affecting his Museum. It received support from both the Council and Chamber. 38 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 6. 39 See S. Persell, ‘The colonial career of Jules Charles-Roux’, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History 1 (1974), p. 313. 40 It is not far-fetched to suggest that regionalist positions on colonial policy were partly an outgrowth of discontent about domestic policies emanating from Paris that aimed to standardize and centralize the French provinces. On this ‘peasants into Frenchmen’ thesis, see Alice L. Conklin, Sarah Fishman, and Robert Zaretsky, France and its Empire since 1870 (New York, 2011), chapter 3. 41 M. Callmander et al., “The legacy of Henri Jumelle in Marseille: an overlooked collection of palms from Madagascar’, Candollea 66 no. 2 (2011), p. 419. 42 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), ‘L’Enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940)’, p. 273. 43 Ibid, p. 278. Lyon also campaigned to assert itself on national colonial policy: see J. Laffey, ‘Municipal imperialism in France: the Lyon Chamber of Commerce, 1900–1914’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 119 no. 1 (1975), pp. 8–23. 44 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 3–6. 45 According to Morando, an average of fifteen students enrolled each year, while courses were freely accessible to auditors who needed to familiarize themselves with specific subjects touching on French colonial domains (Morando, op. cit. (note 33), p. 280). 46 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), ‘L’Enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940)’, p. 279. See also see Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 168. 47 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 16. 48 Charles-Roux and Heckel would serve together as Commissioner and Deputy, when the cmim played a central role in organizing Marseille’s own event – the Colonial Exposition of 1906. 49 Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 169. 50 Historic maps of Marseille are available on the website of the city’s municipal archives. This article has made use of a map from 1916: ‘Plan de Marseille avec detail des vieux quartiers par Pierre Raoul pour l’Indicateur marseillais’, 1916. Archives Municipales de la ville de Marseille, http://archivesplans.marseille.fr/archivesplans, accessed 2 September 2017. 51 Morando, op. cit. (note 17). 52 Ibid., p. 198. 53 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 11. 54 Ibid., p. 7. 55 See Persell, op. cit. (note 9), pp. 35–6. He paraphrases the opinion expressed by Charles-Roux at the Colonial Congress of Marseille, 1906: ‘Capital investment and emigration of settlers were more important in the minds of potential investors than were the virtues of training natives to be good French citizens. [He] had patiently sought government funds to train technicians instead of educators for the colonies, and he credited his success to the efforts of the congresses and colonial societies in lobbying Parliament to appropriate money for such purposes.’ 56 Heckel, op cit. (note 3), p. 35. His experiments on the kola seed are analyzed in Aillaud’s article, ‘Edouard Heckel, un savant organisateur’, op. cit. (note 10). 57 Heckel, op cit. (note 3), pp. 77–85. 58 Ibid., p. 15. ‘Pharmaceutics’ is the scientific study of chemical dosage. In this case, Heckel refers to o’dika butter’s potential qualities for consumer use and implies that pharmaceutics will need to be involved (following which the product would be dispensed by pharmacists). 59 Ibid., p. 16. 60 Ibid., p. 15. 61 The ‘Notice’ included seven scholarly articles written by Colonial Museum affiliate scientists. Among the articles were ‘Rubber from the French Colonies’ and ‘Gum and Gum Resin from the French Colonies’: see Heckel, op cit. (note 3), pp. 41–75. 62 Heckel’s ‘Notice” did not neglect ethnography entirely. Such objects, however, were of limited interest to Heckel and the space he allotted to them in his text (as well as in the Museum itself) was marginal. 63 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), n. 280. Morando cites here the archives of Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, École Supérieure de Commerce de Marseille, cours coloniaux (1899–1940). 64 Callmander et.al., op. cit. (note 41), p. 419. 65 See Persell, op. cit. (note 9), p. 35: ‘Jules Charles-Roux set the tone of the [1906 Colonial] Congress by demanding abandonment of the abstract principles of eighteenth-century philosophes in favour of a pragmatic recognition of difference in native levels of development in the colonies.’ 66 See Roncayolo, op. cit. (note 5). 67 Yaël Simpson Fletcher, ‘City, Nation, and Empire in Marseille, 1919–1939, Ph.D. diss. (Emory University, 1999), p. 57. 68 See ‘Compte rendu’, op. cit. (note 21), p. 427, which cited Heckel’s May 1907 report to the International Colonial Institute. The Session lamented that stagnation seemed to have set in at the Colonial Museum of Marseille. 69 See, for example, A. Conklin, In the Museum of Man: Race, anthropology and empire in France, 1850–1950 (Ithaca, ny, 2013); N. Dias, Le musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro (1878–1908): Anthropologie et muséologie en France (Paris, 1991); D. Hale, Races on Display: French representations of colonized people, 1886–1940 (Bloomington, in, 2008); Benoît d’Estoire, Federico Neiburg and Lygia Sigaud (eds), Empires, Nations and Natives. Anthropology and state-making (Durham, nc, 2006); and E. Sibeud, Une science impériale pour l’Afrique? La construction des savoirs africanistes en France, 1878–1930 (Paris, 2002). 70 Simpson Fletcher, op. cit. (note 67), pp. 126–7. 71 On the Colonial Exhibition, for which the Paris Colonial Museum was built, see Patricia Morton, Hybrid Modernities: Architecture and representation at the 1931 Colonial Exposition, Paris (Cambridge, ma, and London, 2000); Pascal Blanchard, ‘L’union nationale: la rencontre des droites et des gauches autour de l’Exposition coloniale’ (pp. 269–86), and Steve Ungar, ‘L’Exposition coloniale (1931)’, (pp. 259–68), in Culture coloniale en France: de la Revolution français à nos jours, ed. Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire and Nicolas Bancel (Paris, 2008). 72 I have found scant mention of Marseille’s Colonial Museum in the years after World War i. According to a press dossier on the website of Marseille’s cultural affairs office, the Museum and Institute closed in 1962, the same year of Algerian independence and mass immigration of former settlers of Algeria to southern France. It is perhaps for this complex of reasons that the museum erased any titular claim to represent French colonial interests. 73 The Museum collections have since been reassigned, seemingly by type of object. The botanical specimens are now preserved at the Université de Provence (Aix-Marseillé Université) and consultable by appointment at amu on premises near Marseille’s main train station. Curated by Bruno Vila, who writes and presents on the history of the collection and its use today, Heckel’s heritage lives on. The collection is known as the ‘Collection du Musée Colonial’ and comprises one room in which selected specimens are shown in their original cases. See website for the Université de Provence, ‘Musée Colonial’, https://cps.univ-amu.fr/musee-colonial, accessed 10 September 2017. 74 Mauss’s work, ‘Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques’, first appeared in L’Année Sociologique, new ser. 1 (1923–4), pp. 30–186. Annette B. Weiner has suggested that ‘inalienable’ ethnographic objects in collections are seen to have more value than objects with a natural or mass-manufactured provenance (such as natural history specimens and their products): see A. Weiner, ‘Inalienable wealth’, American Ethnologist 12 no. 2 (1985), pp. 210–27. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of the History of Collections Oxford University Press

The Colonial Museum of Marseille: Empire and object in France’s ‘Porte de l’Orient’

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Oxford University Press
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Abstract

Abstract France’s colonial museums of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries now stand as vestiges of the past, their collections reassigned to different institutions around the country or repurposed intellectually to address issues of the contemporary era. Colonial museums’ ethnographic collections have received the lion’s share of historical inquiry, given the important role that these objects – used to represent indigenous peoples – came to play in French political and public debate over the morality of the imperial civilizing mission. This article examines a different kind of colonial museum, one that took shape in an important regional hub of imperial France and offered a more prosaic argument for expanding beyond French borders. Focusing on the Colonial Museum of Marseille, which opened in 1893, the article interrogates a collecting logic that eschewed any civilizing rationale and instead targeted everyday objects in order to make the case for the domestic, quotidian, and provincial benefits of French colonialism. In 1901, Jules Charles-Roux, an influential colonial campaigner from the French port city of Marseille, sent a report to France’s Minister of the Colonies.1 The report in question summarized the active role played by the Ministry of the Colonies in the planning and execution of the Universal Exhibition of 1900, held in Paris. More specifically, Charles-Roux highlighted the participation of the Colonial Museum of Marseille, which had lent objects for display that were, to his mind, unique among such collections. For the middling visitor, he opined, a colonial museum might call to mind ‘poison arrow collections’. For Charles-Roux, these objects titillated visitors who were intrigued by their otherness but then just as quickly forgot them as exotic oddities. The Marseille colonial museum, on the other hand, ‘responds to something very much needed’, he asserted.2 Housed in a six-storey building in the city centre and backed by the Chamber of Commerce, Marseille’s élite had aimed to fill the museum with ‘useful’ objects of empire: grains, oils, extracts, and the consumer products they rendered. A year before the Universal Exhibition of 1900 took place, the director of the Marseille museum, Dr Edouard Heckel, had himself offered an account of the necessity of his establishment. As its founder and head, Heckel prepared a long pamphlet entitled, ‘A Notice on the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille’. Written for subsequent circulation at the Universal Exhibition,3 Heckel’s tract sought to convince readers of a particular set of means and ends of imperial expansion and to define France’s colonial projects as uniquely tied to Marseille.4 He presented his museum as a showcase that celebrated the colonial resources and products made possible through Marseille’s role as the nation’s principal colonial port city. Known as France’s ‘Porte de l’Orient’ (‘Gateway to the Orient’) and ‘Capital of the Colonies’, the Mediterranean city had a unique identity and position. Its compass often pointed towards ports abroad rather than northwards to Paris.5 Not only was its overseas trade the most significant in France (at 58 per cent), but it was a literal end and beginning of the physical metropole, with heavy industrial and passenger ferry traffic to North and West Africa by the end of the nineteenth century.6 Given Marseille’s role in the colonial economy, Heckel represented the city as ideally suited to speak for the interrelated benefits of empire, science, and business. Promoting the colonial project for its utilitarian and commercial benefits, Heckel’s museum eschewed messages of humanitarian work or cultural advancement – the French ‘civilizing mission’ – as a rationale for empire. Instead, the Colonial Museum showcased the profits of applied science. The principles upheld by the Marseille museum nuance the general thesis of the French ‘republican civilizing mission’; its collections reflect conjunctions of French politics, colonial economics, provincial networks, and popular culture that help us better understand how empire was observed and experienced within metropolitan France.7 Heckel’s work in Marseille serves as a reminder that we must be careful about overstating the civilizing mission’s powers of indoctrination, and mindful of the differentiated understandings of empire that existed in France and how those different understandings influenced collecting projects and presentations. As France began to make the transition from a ‘conquest phase’ of empire that had marked the 1880s, its élite politicians and business leaders struggled to define, plan, and implement the next phase of empire. It was in this moment that the Marseille museum injected a dictum of personal prosperity through empire into the debate. Rational, regional, yet still republican, the museum’s leaders and backers sought to influence policy debate on colonialism at the fin-de-siècle and competed with other public expressions of French empire manifested at exhibitions and fairs, and in the Paris-based museums. This article will consider three aspects in which Heckel’s museum shows how under-examined collecting logics, rooted in specific places, can reveal the multiplicity of ideologies that animated French empire. First, the Marseille museum as described by Heckel suggests that hallmarks of state republican culture – museums, scientific laboratories, and educational institutions – actively sought to speak their own private language of colonial doctrine. In the case of the Marseille museum, that colonial doctrine rested on a premise of non-moralized opportunity to bring science to bear on colonial raw materials for private economic benefit within France. The economic benefit, for that matter, was meant to do more than enrich the pockets of the industrialist factory owner who produced consumer goods from colonial materials: Heckel also intended to show how colonialism would raise the living standards of the French families who purchased that factory’s new wares. Second, Heckel’s Marseille institution reflected the city’s particular stake in French colonialism. Surpassing France’s Atlantic coast ports in colonial trade in the 1830s, by the 1880s half of all French colonial tonnage passed through Marseille.8 If Marseille’s leaders saw their city as uniquely tied to the colonies by the end of the nineteenth century, they also saw ‘Paris’ policies as consistently undermining their interests.9 The Colonial Museum became a way for the business élite of Marseille to propagate their stance on debates over the political economy of empire that remained abstract for much of the French public. Finally, Heckel’s institution in Marseille provided a variant of imperial mise en valeur. Though akin to the term’s general connotation at the time of ‘development’ or ‘optimization’, Heckel’s definition of mise en valeur eschewed the expansive projects of railways and mines being established overseas in favour of domestic appropriations – soap, margarine, and candles – that people at home in France could use. His version of imperial object made the colonies seem accessible and reliable. Created at the turn of the century, Heckel’s Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille promoted a specific form of republican colonial mission: not so much the famous mission civilisatrice but rather what we might call the mission utilisatrice. Often eclipsed in the historiography of French empire and colonial collections by focus on the mission civilisatrice, the mission utilisatrice promoted colonialism’s ultimate value as a system to bring about national prosperity at home in the metropole. This article examines Heckel’s collection as one that was principally inspired by the mission utilisatrice and seeks to show why Marseille became the site of such a museum, how the museum arranged its displays to conjure specific messages about empire, and what ultimately became of this variant on empire and its objects. Colonial museum, colonial mission From the beginning, Marseille’s Colonial Museum and Institute was driven by belief in the benefits of object-based science, colonial resources, public support, and private expertise. As a result, the museum’s mission was quite innovative for its time: to promote the cause of colonial mise en valeur to scholars, the power élite, and lay people alike. The pamphlet that director Heckel wrote for the Paris Exhibition in 1900 provides a key insight into this particular institution’s unique synthesis of private and public interests in its formulation of the French colonial project. First, Heckel’s personal pedigree helped fuse the necessary but disparate worlds of science, finance, and politics that invested the institution with influence. Second, his plan came to fruition in tandem with the public’s growing embrace of museums, applied learning, and fascination with objects and consumerism. Finally, Heckel’s colonial enterprise was unabashed about its utility as a private-public nexus, which made it a recipient of support from moneyed sectors. Who was this fervent scientist, colonialist, and Marseillais so resolute in his ideas and commitments? Edouard Heckel was a pharmacist, doctor, botanist, and for a short time a republican politician.10 Born in Toulon in south-east France in 1843, he earned a succession of scientific and medical degrees, studying for several of them while posted abroad as a naval pharmacist, first in Martinique and then in New Caledonia. After a variety of appointments, Heckel finally settled in the Chair of Botany at the Faculty of Sciences of Marseille in 1877, and remained there until his death in 1916. He was also briefly director of the Museum of Natural History (1877–9) in Marseille, director of the city’s botanical gardens, and an author published in ‘journals of the capital,’ as he described them.11 Heckel, in other words, had not only scientific expertise but also extensive experience in the colonies, in France, and in Marseille.12 By the time he opened his museum in 1893, the founding director had accrued the authority and network necessary to attract financial support and in-kind donations. Heckel was also offering something that people in Marseille and republic an France increasingly wanted to see – objects. Heckel was proud of his personal and professional experiences that culminated in the Marseille museum. He described its origins as a private undertaking in nature, driven foremost by his own vision: Untouched from the very beginning by the precariousness and delays that always result from conflicts over ideas and between people, [and] realized according to a long-studied plan by a long-time colonialist, [the Colonial Museum] rapidly went through the phases of evolution that brought it to its current state; this state, as satisfying as it is now . . . is only just the beginning of what will come.13 Heckel spoke with justifiable confidence in himself. He had proved remarkably adept at securing backing from the Marseille Chamber of Commerce and in organizing France’s first colonial museum.14 Although most promotional material issued by Heckel – and subsequent historiographical mention – noted the museum’s founding date as 1893, not until 1896 did the collection gain a permanent space for public, scientific, and commercial visitors. Bearing the imprimatur of the Chamber of Commerce and the university’s Faculté des Sciences, France’s first colonial museum opened in its official quarters in 1896 at 63 Boulevard des Dames, in Marseille.15 Located in the branch office of the Ministry of Colonies and allocated an entire floor, Heckel’s museum had gained a home free of charge, but at the price of appealing to certain visitors over others. Sitting in the new port district of Marseille, the La Joliette neighbourhood, the location facilitated visits from traders, merchant seamen, and colonial officials. On the other hand, this same location placed it far enough away from the Canebière area, where tourists strolled and local élite met socially, that Heckel soon began noticing the site’s shortcomings.16 Nevertheless, he began to fill the vitrines of the new museum with objects – raw materials such as seeds, nuts, oils, grains – and examples of what Marseille’s leading industries could make from those materials: flour, medicines, tiles, and latex, among other products.17 Blocks of Marseille’s famous putty green and ecru-white soaps, the gentle lather deriving from a composite of vegetable oils that increasingly came from African colonies, sat in the display cases. Stamped with the distinctive ‘Savon de Marseille’ so long as they contained at least 72 per cent vegetable oil and no animal fats, the bars would have been choice samples of the hundreds of thousands of tons produced in the city and surrounding area each year. On the collection, a colleague would later recall that Heckel had always categorized the Colonial Museum’s objects in utilitarian terms: ‘The products (produits) of this Museum should not be considered in their own right . . . but rather from a commercial point of view.’18 The specimens he had personally assembled while on overseas service comprised the museum’s earliest collection. Heckel’s associates in the colonies also contributed material, most of which, he noted, came unbidden and in testament to the eager support for such an institution. In the pamphlet written in 1900, a list of donations appeared at the end.19 The register, though incomplete, provided an idea of who contributed which objects. Of nearly 100 donors, almost all were listed as ‘French’. Most donations came from individuals, though a few companies also featured and several professions predominated: doctors and pharmacists; colonial administrators and army personnel; natural scientists and scholars; and industrialists and traders. The objects they sent comprised a rich representation of colonial specimens, with certain categories prevailing, mainly natural history specimens (natural latex deriving from the gutta tree, wood samples, seeds, and shells). Visitors to the museum’s display at the 1900 Exhibition might have momentarily paused over samples of iboga, an African shrub whose root bark Heckel described as sought after by indigenous tribes for its psychedelic properties. Readers of the ‘Notice’ would have learned how the museum in Marseille displayed hundreds more objects, arranged by geographical provenance, so that the iboga’s knotty roots sat alongside other African specimens, such as purplish-brown seeds from the owala tree.20 They would also have learned that the museum was bursting at the seams; Heckel noted how the museum had outgrown its space over the course of seven years – perhaps an oblique request to his benefactors for new quarters.21 Heckel quoted an average number of twenty visitors per day in 1899 and described the gallery as ‘visited regularly and assiduously by the public to whom it is open every day, excluding Monday.’22 Such regular attendance figures would be in keeping with the nineteenth-century public’s embrace of museums.23 Converging with the pedagogical theory of object-based learning, museums offered visitors a textural experience, a place where they could practise the leçon de choses.24 Heckel’s institute conveyed firm belief in the colonial objects’ ability to teach and convince the public of colonialism’s innumerable benefits.25 To this end, he proudly noted the museum’s didactic display of specimens set alongside the products they could render: [T]he Araucaria [a type of evergreen found New Caledonia] . . . produced a gum resin of which the gum is an arabin and also a resin product comparable to copal that can be used to make thick varnish or shellac.26 Thus we display together the gum, the resin, and the varnish that they produce.27 The Marseille museum encouraged visitors to approach with a domestic buyer’s mentality, to the point that Heckel’s ‘Notice’ of 1900 summoned up the text from a store catalogue as much as it did scientific description: Madagascar, a new French possession, is for the moment slightly less represented at the Museum. However, the visitor can stop in interest to look at the cases holding samples of rock crystal, rubber, vanilla . . . silk ribbons and vegetal fibres . . . and the fruits of the voyager tree that are a beautiful blue.28 Heckel’s ‘Notice’ described in such a manner nearly every object mentioned. While the place of origin was always noted, focus remained resolutely on the objects’ uses as consumable products and the capacity of French-based industry to render them so. A focus on consumption prevailed in the Marseille Colonial Museum in general. Such a world view was not necessarily unique; scholars have suggested that similarities existed between the era’s museums and department stores.29 Becoming public sites in nearly the same era, both functioned as visible and celebrated galleries that a person might visit in order to consume, make comparisons, and commune with an abundance of collected objects. Such a modality of spectatorship combined with consumerism certainly seems apt in the case of Heckel’s museum. There, consumption was not so much subliminally facilitated as clearly encouraged by its exhibition displays and prevailing philosophy. It comes as little surprise that, following a major overhaul financed by Marseille’s Chamber of Commerce, the Colonial Museum re-opened in 1907 with an additional ‘commercial museum’ devoted to all the colonial products manufactured in France. The Museum had become part shop.30 Marseille’s institution thus fashioned itself as a site where colonialism merged with consumerism. Here, it might be helpful to pose several questions – what other museums embraced the title and definition colonial?; how did the Marseille museum define itself as colonial?; and by comparison, how did Heckel’s colonial museum benefit from its individual definition? Heckel defined his colonial museum as having three essential components: colonial matter, a scientific method, and a practicable mission. ‘Our colonies . . . are a raw material that are only worth what we do to them’, he wrote. ‘There you have it, in several words, the genesis and raison d’être for what is today, in full scientific prosperity, the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille.’31 This outlook becomes more significant when one considers the comparative landscape. No other such institution existed in France in 1900. Heckel both boasted and lamented that Paris did not yet have a colonial museum, outpaced in this regard by London, Berlin, Brussels, and Haarlem.32 Even then, Heckel’s analogue institutions in Europe tended to feature more ethnography and mechanical technology than his botanical-heavy and applied science approach. The Marseille museum’s self-definition as ‘colonial museum’ was decidedly more about utility, consumption and everyday life than its European counterparts. As a result, the museum benefited from its clear message and appeal to certain sectors of business and society. Marseille’s industrialists, traders, wine dealers, shipping magnates, and bankers invested in the city’s colonial museum, making it the public, scholarly, and philanthropic agent and beneficiary of their imperial interests.33 Marseille: capital of the metropole The ‘Notice’ prepared by Heckel for the Universal Exhibition in Paris was not just about his institution; it was also a homage to the Marseillais who had embraced his project. Heckel recognized the reciprocity that bound his colonial museum to certain interests in Marseille. Indeed, plenty of evidence points to a close partnership. The museum depended on the city’s commercial sector for its financial and reputational livelihood. The Chamber of Commerce provided primary support to Heckel’s undertaking, and Charles-Roux had given the museum international exposure by earmarking space for it at the Exhibition of 1900. Heckel’s pamphlet for that same event conveys a sense of collaboration. He asserts that his work on oleaginous seeds had led to innovations in Marseille’s soap, candles, and cooking fat industries. The Museum and Institute also made it part of its mission to serve Marseillais business interests by identifying specimens brought in from the colonies. Traders, merchant seamen, and colonial officials could deposit samples at Heckel’s institution and solicit help in identifying them. Members of Marseille’s Colonial Institute, founded in 1893 alongside the Museum, could also ask for help in identifying specimens; consult dossiers on the collections’ individual objects; or obtain the names of Marseille industrialists who might want to make use of such specimens.34 Such a union sheds light on broader questions about French republican ethos, regional attitudes, and the colonial project’s capacity to destabilize and divide loyalty. An institution like Heckel’s ostensibly championed the French republican empire yet also believed in and remained bounded by the interests of a more local constituency. The generation to which Heckel and his most influential backers belonged has come to be seen as distinctly republican, but also distinctly associated with Paris, the hub of the centralizing French state.35 Born in the early 1840s, both Heckel and his major benefactor, Jules Charles-Roux, were entering their professional prime when the French Third Republic finally seemed set to become a permanent fixture. Both men enjoyed brief careers in republican politics, representing the more moderate politics of the Opportunists.36 They valued education, science, hygiene, economic liberalism, and above all, overseas expansion. For Heckel and Charles-Roux, empire provided the optimal outlet for republican progress. With respective careers in applied tropical botany, industry, and shipping, it also met their professional interests. Marseille’s élite, in general, adopted a similar position. With these regional ties in mind, historical studies of republican debate on colonial policy must take into account the particular circumstances and interests of Marseille vis-à-vis colonialism. Marseille was a republican city and an imperial port, yes; but its local interests – at least those reflected by Heckel’s museum – gave it a particular definition.37 In spite of Paris, Marseillais élite wanted to speak for France. Thus Heckel had the confidence to state: ‘This institution is conscious of the high expectations entrusted it and desires to maintain Marseille’s well deserved title of Metropole of French Colonies.’38 The local élite’s methods of imposing its own colonial concerns on the national stage took several forms. First, certain Marseillais exerted significant influence within the French colonial lobby. Both an external pressure-group and a loose political bloc in Parliament, the colonial lobby demanded an end to economic protectionism, arguing that import-export charges crippled colonial development. Many of Marseille’s businesses with colonial interests took a firm position behind and within the colonial lobby. Charles-Roux was one of its most outspoken and well-spoken advocates, following two precepts: that ‘a strong colonial economy was desirable in itself’ and that ‘French commercial interests in the colonies were being sacrificed in favour of the protectionist inclinations of French agriculture.’39 Charles-Roux and the Chamber of Commerce of Marseille took positions that favoured the industries of Marseille, championing liberal taxes and tariffs on colonial imports such as wheat from North Africa. This stance put them at odds with parliamentarians from areas of France where agriculture remained the dominant sector of the economy. Perhaps out of frustration with the frequent paralysis of political negotiations on colonial economy at the national level, Marseillais business interests sought new means of materializing their concerns: the use of patented republican institutions – education, science, and museums – to express opinions on national policies of Empire.40 Marseille increasingly fashioned itself as the ‘Porte coloniale’ of France and found a convenient nexus of republican values and regional colonial strategy in Heckel’s initiatives. These included not only the museum but also a Colonial Institute. Whereas the museum had the intention of ‘illustrating to the general public the prosperity of the French colonies’, the Institute focused on specialized constituencies that often overlapped – scientists, fee-paying members, and students planning colonial careers.41 In this last aspect, Heckel anticipated a movement toward the diffusion of colonial training, so that provincial capitals had more direct involvement. That movement crystalized in the campaign to decentralize the École Coloniale in Paris, the traditional training ground of France’s colonial bureaucrats. Along with other major trading cities, Marseille requested the right for its Chamber of Commerce to train colonial administrators in order to produce graduates sensitive to local concerns. The government denied the request on the grounds that such a structure would produce cohorts too sensitive to local interests.42 The cities therefore sought other options, such as setting up their own Institutes. These Institutes would train students not for colonial service but rather for the private sector.43 In 1898, Heckel proposed to the Marseille Chamber of Commerce that it join with his already-established Institute on such a project. Two years later, Heckel’s ‘Notice’ for the Paris Exhibition predicted a success story and he wrote excitedly that the Chamber of Commerce would soon be endowing six chairs in History of Plant Products, History of Animal Products and Parasitology of Plants and Animals, Mineralogy and Geology, History and Geography, Legislation and Economy, and Climatology, Epidemiology and Hygiene.44 Rather than the university setting that Heckel had intended, however, it was the École du Commerce that ended up housing the Institute’s colonial chairs and courses.45 Though lacking documentation to explain this change, we might speculate that the Faculté des Sciences deemed the colonial courses to be too political, or perhaps concerns grew about crossing swords with the Paris-based École Coloniale, even if it meant crossing instead the Marseille Chamber of Commerce.46 The insular nature of the colonial science pursued by Heckel’s initiatives – at a distance from other university colleagues’ burgeoning work in the human sciences – may help explain why the museum remained resolute in its curatorial preference for natural specimens and uninterested in widening its collection to take in more ethnographic, archaeological, and architectural pieces. Another explanation lies in the critical role that the Chamber continued to play in the museum’s ability to function. If the Chamber saw no profit in displaying art, weapons, tools, or mosaics from Algeria or Indochina, it was not in Heckel’s interest to insist on the point. It was a felicitous union in that respect, as Heckel also appears to have had little desire for more cultural artefacts. The Marseille Chamber of Commerce, as this example attests, joined forces regularly with Heckel on colonial initiatives; it became, in fact, his biggest supporter, providing an annual subsidy to the Museum and Institute. Its name appeared at the top of the donor index printed in Heckel’s ‘Notice’ of 1900. The ‘Notice’ also recognized the chamber’s own donations to the museum’s collection (rum, orange wine, pineapple wine, etc.) and the chamber’s salutary policy of advising out-of-town traders and industrialists bearing colonial specimens to offer them as donations to the museum.47 The most significant sign of support was Charles-Roux’s inclusion of the museum at the 1900 Exhibition. As commissioner of the Exhibition’s colonial section, he made sure that his home-town institution played a part.48 Such financial support and esteem for its mission no doubt brought Heckel much pride and prominence. His institute was not just a beneficiary, however, as it provided Marseille’s business community with reciprocal gains: the imprimatur of a scholarly institution as well as scientific innovations that directly benefited the city’s industries. The colonial museum thus pursued work that enhanced local profits, netted financial and in-kind returns that followed, and legitimated and propagated a specifically liberalist definition of colonial economic development. By 1907, the Chamber of Commerce decided to move the museum into a more accessible location for the general public. Following a successful showing at the 1906 Colonial Exhibition in Marseille, where 1,800,000 visitors toured fifty-nine acres filled with pavilions, human subjects, and simulated colonial street scenes, the museum seemed representative of the port city’s imperial ascendency.49 After the exhibition, the city’s supporters openly embraced the sobriquet ‘capital of the metropole’, implying that Paris was for France but that Marseille was for la plus Grande France. That seeming apogee of colonial power, however, was soon challenged by events within France and beyond it. And Heckel’s influence, despite the success of the exhibition in 1906 and the new building for his museum, also plateaued in the years to come. A collection of applied science In 1907 the new museum and institute opened in a stately stone building dating from the mid-nineteenth century, at 5 Rue Noailles.50 Stretching along the second floor of the long building, the museum now had more space, as did the component parts of Heckel’s institution. The Rue Noailles offered many advantages for the museum’s stated mission of serving the public, a goal that the 1906 Colonial Exhibition had reinvigorated. In addition to the museum, the new building featured an information centre on the first floor, where visitors could obtain details on any aspect pertaining to colonial issues.51 And as a continuation of the Canebière, Marseille’s historic main street, the Rue Noailles now placed the Colonial Museum at the heart of the city. It was surrounded by the business and tourist districts, close to prestigious schools, and only steps away from the old port and the Bourse, the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce.52 Although the opening times of the new museum remain obscure, we might assume that it carried over the operating hours of its former location, that is Tuesday through Friday from 9.00 in the morning to 12.00 noon, and from 2.00 to 5.00 in the afternoon.53 In terms of what visitors saw, no catalogue seems to have succeeded the inventory provided by Heckel in his 1900 ‘Notice’, so here we must resort to careful conjecture. The ‘Notice’ had focused mainly on the natural history specimens of the collection. Describing the floor plan in the old building, Heckel had sketched out a gallery in which glazed horizontal and vertical cases occupied the centre of the room and lined the walls. The flora and fauna were arranged in the cabinets to facilitate two kinds of observation: comparative work and synthetic work, the latter implying an understanding of what the specimens could render. ‘Bulky objects’, Heckel noted in the ‘List’, ‘such as capes and jackets, parasols, weapons, costumes, canoes, figurines, and musical instruments are hung on free wall space, between the windows, and in the window recesses.’54 Such ethnographic objects did, therefore, comprise part of the collection, but Heckel consigned them to the margins. His curt description gave the impression that these objects were not arranged to accommodate comparative work, or other types of research; whether they even bore labels is unclear. It seems doubtful that the new museum at Rue Noailles, though more commodious, would have inspired its curator-head, trained as a botanist and pharmacologist, to take measures to enhance the display of what he impassively referred to as ‘bulky objects’. Though Charles-Roux and the colonial lobby sometimes invoked indigenous concerns, historians have considered their sincerity with scepticism.55 Heckel seems hardly to have invoked them at all; at least in the ‘Notice’, no mention of indigenous peoples appeared in the 108-page text. He maintained a resolutely scientific and amoral focus on applied science’s benefits for French health and nutrition, Marseille’s industries, and French colonial settlers and soldiers. What does this omission say about Heckel and his institution? Does it betray a founder who was singularly focused on economic exploitation? Or does it reflect a drive to innovate, no matter the human cost? Scholarship has pointed out that the argument for mise en valeur (development) came to encompass ‘native development’ well before 1900. Heckel’s silence on the civilizing mission, therefore, seems conspicuous. It is perhaps imprudent to read too much – such as an attempt at racial erasure – into this omission. What seems more appropriate is to detect instead his overriding belief in empire’s prosaic benefits: every day, any French person could profit from it. Heckel’s understanding of colonial development promised metropolitan France a pivotal position. It was in France – Marseille, to be exact – where colonial objects and products would be rendered and then propagated to French citizens. In this way, France would grow rich with a bevy of new resources and techniques. Simultaneously, it could export such dividends to French colonialists in Africa, Indochina, and the South Pacific. In his ‘Notice’, Heckel provided the West African kola seed as one example. He had experimented with it at the Colonial Museum’s greenhouse and then had it exported to the Antilles, Guyana, Madagascar, and Indochina for its anti-diarrheal properties.56 Extracting what he referred to as the seed’s ‘excitable’ properties, he had also invented a ‘condensed galette’ to aid tired soldiers. Despite the utility of his experiments in hygiene and agriculture, it bears repeating that there was no mention in the text of such applied benefits for the colonized subjects. His passion was not to convert the colonized (to religion or republicanism) but rather to persuade the French of the everyday wonders afforded by colonial trade and applied science. An appreciation of these new products, so the logic went, could enhance colonial settlement, desire at home for empire, and a more robust French economy and standard of living. For Heckel, colonial development was a means of improving French life while imparting his appreciation for seemingly minor scientific material and inventions. Such a principle informed the objects the Marseille museum collected, experimented on, and promoted to industrialists and the public. A list of its products sent up to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900 revealed such quotidian goals. Roughly 200 objects were on temporary display at the Place du Trocadéro, grouped into five categories: edible agricultural products of a vegetal base, inedible agricultural products, instruments used to extract tree sap and gum, copies of the Museum and Institute’s scholarly journal for sale, and plant-based medicinal treatments.57 Heckel’s account of the permanent collection confirmed the prevailing esteem for everyday products. Oilseeds – Heckel’s specialty – had a prominent place in the collection at Marseille. He noted the use of the o’dika seed in ‘a very nutritious bread, of a taste similar to cacao, and a butter that can be used by pharmaceutics’.58 The owala seed, likewise, had pleased a Marseille company, Maison Fournier, for the high quality of candles it rendered, producing sticks ‘that look like porcelain, which melt at higher temperatures than ordinary candles . . . These candles, as well as soap and glycerin produced as by-products . . . are on display at the Museum.’59 The Marseille Colonial Museum’s interpretation of French colonial development was arguably small-scale and accessible in its usefulness, but its delivery of information must be described as arcane at times. Heckel and his team puzzled over an insular type of science and invariably used scientific description to share their findings. The ‘Notice’ prepared for the Universal Exhibition – ostensibly aimed at a wide audience – in fact reflected the Marseille group’s parochial nature. Difficult as it is to gauge the reader’s grasp of science in 1900, it seems a safe conclusion that Heckel’s text did not make for a gripping or general read. Its basic overview of the museum’s objects may have proved simple enough: ‘In the rows reserved for Senegal, one finds peanuts from Rufisque and Joal, rubber, clay, rice, and Copal gum . . .’60 The descriptions, however, referenced places, species, and scientific details almost certainly unfamiliar and esoteric to many readers. And articles republished in the ‘Notice’ from the Colonial Museum’s journal, the Annales, clearly required a familiarity with botanical science.61 With the exception of ethnological artefacts – which Heckel noted but relegated to a position of secondary interest – the museum represented in this ‘Notice’ can be described as (arguably) it saw itself: as a pantry or medicine chest of useful products with dense labels and specific applications.62 What remained in question was how valuable they would be seen over time – politically, socially, and museographically. The trajectory of the Colonial Museum once established at Rue Noailles is obscure. No catalogue seems to have supplanted the 1900 ‘Notice’, and we know more about the later years of the associated Institute, which left behind traces of sustained attempts to intervene in national colonial policy-making, as well as colonial instruction at Marseille’s École du Commerce until 1940.63 Although the museum reported a popular appetite for its collections based on visitor traffic at the 1906 Colonial Exhibition in Marseille, it appears that the new central location led to no sudden expansion of its public. Instead, by the time the Great War was over, the museum had again moved: to the first floor of the natural science building at the Faculté des Sciences.64 It remained there until 1962 as the ‘Colonial Museum of Marseille’, out of range of a widespread audience and embracing its new (and original) role as a university collection. We must read between the years to understand why. Conclusion At the heart of the Colonial Museum and Institute of Marseille was not the famous mission civilisatrice. It was, rather, the mission utilisatrice, a vision of empire characterized by economic motivation and locally based interests, but also a belief in the quotidian benefits of colonialism for the average French person. What contemporary republicans were framing as the moral demands and dividends of empire constituted an unnecessary variable in Heckel’s view.65 Colonies brought novel objects and profitable things into France; businessmen and many scientists tended to see the colonial enterprise through this lens. Heckel seems to have envisioned a benign imperialism, or at least one in which he failed or refused to consider the ramifications entailed in his mission utilisatrice. His vision could justly be described as myopic, and not just for being blind to colonialism’s insidious qualities. His focus was also narrowed on the regional trade of one southern port. In this way, study of the Colonial Museum offers a window for better understanding of provincial imperialisms and specifically Marseillais imperialism. Certain interests in Marseille parted ways with other visions of empire. The Ministry of Colonies’ grand designs for African infrastructure were different from Heckel’s domestic designs for imperial products. If Heckel’s vision was so specific, what significance does his museum institution have for the historical record? Here it may be suggested that Heckel’s institution is revealing as a historical object for the very fact that it faded away, as well as for the scant historiographical treatment that institutions like it have received. On the one hand, its withdrawal from the historical record lies partly in its location, so important to its founding. By 1913, the colonies represented only 20 per cent of the traffic passing in and out of Marseille’s port. Market forces meant that many Marseille industrialists bought peanut oil from India if it out-priced its equivalent from French West Africa.66 The colonial economy’s fluctuations during and following World War i also meant that the Marseille museum and institute now faced a more sceptical base. Historians have described the city in 1928, on the eve of economic depression, as one that had seen commerce come to a halt during the war, followed by anxious troop movements and mass loss of life in the trenches, and then a marked increase in immigration throughout the 1920s.67 The city’s economic, social, and political composition was changing, and Heckel’s institutional representation of empire and its object no longer fitted quite as well in Marseille. Here it is helpful to delineate the intended audience of the collection after World War i. Its move to the Faculté des Sciences after 1918 implies that an academic constituency still found it useful for research on flora and fauna from colonial settings. The loosening of the relationship with the Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, indicates a shift away from a broader commercial or civilian public. Heckel’s death in 1916, and the consequent change in leadership, could partly explain this disengagement. All of these explanations probably bear some weight. But other, more cultural factors also account for the fading away of Marseille’s Colonial Museum. I will conclude by gesturing toward one cultural process, namely the rise of the ethnographic museum. Heckel had collected objects for his enterprise in a bid to influence the public at large, not just the captains of industry and trade, so it is reasonable to speculate on the museum’s success with the public as the years progressed. There is evidence that the Colonial Museum’s general ethos and collecting logic changed little over its first fifteen years, including the period when it moved to Rue Noailles.68 Public opinion, however, was not stagnant, at least not toward museums. While much of the public remained relatively detached or disinterested in economic debate about the colonies, the same public became more interested in museum representation of life in the colonies, especially after thousands of colonial troops and labourers had spent the war years in France and awakened broad metropolitan awareness of the people of ‘la plus Grande France’. In this sense, a more vivacious kind of ‘colonial museum’ was stealing the limelight from Heckel’s tree nuts, anti-diarrheal galettes, and cotton fibres. Ethnography and its ‘poison arrow collections’ gained prominence in France over the first half of the twentieth century.69 Even if the public remained ambivalent about whether or not civilizing indigenous populations could actually be achieved, they still wanted to see the masks, musical instruments, and textiles of France’s colonized peoples. Significantly, when Marseille hosted a follow-up Colonial Exhibition in 1922, ethnographic exhibitions held pride of place.70 And when a national Colonial Museum finally did open in Paris in 1931, the museographical focus was on ethnography, less on applied science.71 The Marseille museum, in short, seems to have modelled itself around a particularly arcane but also utilitarian vision of ‘colonial’ collection.72 Heckel, in other words, sought to popularize colonial specimens whose prosaic nature ultimately failed to appeal to widespread public interest. Tucked away in the Faculté des Sciences after World War i, the Colonial Museum henceforth served a rarified constituency – scientists – and was dissolved in 1962, the year that Algeria won independence and the French empire all but collapsed.73 In the early 1920s the French anthropologist and future founder of the Musée de l’Homme, Marcel Mauss, theorized that certain objects carried ‘inalienable’ value, accrued through the meaning attached to them by their original owners.74 The objects could not be commercialized or rendered as a result. In inalienability lay their superior cultural value, as people desired to acquire and possess what they could not completely own or reproduce. The ‘inalienable value’ of those objects no doubt made them of lesser interest to the applied botanist but arguably more exciting to French people captivated by other societies’ values. It was, ironically, the ‘civilizing mission’ that they wanted to see in a colonial museum. Heckel’s collection had set its sights on a different vision of empire. He had deliberately created a museum of alienable value. Thus while his support for a colonialism focused on exploitation of natural resources resonated powerfully for some scientists, economists, and industrialists, his colonial museum needed more than botanical specimens and botanically-derived products to succeed amongst the public: it needed a reference to man – to ‘other’ man, specifically. People increasingly understood themselves as participating in France’s empire by visiting museums of ethnography. They wanted to see the human and the ‘unusual’, concepts Heckel had deliberately shut out. His mission utilisatrice ultimately proved too ordinary for a colonial museum. Cooking oil on display did not spark a popular colonial appetite. Its value was simply not worth the trip. Acknowledgements I wish to thank Catherine Dunlop, Robert Griswold, Arianne Urus, and the anonymous reviewer for the Journal of the History of Collections for their comments on earlier versions of this article, as well as the Institute of French Studies at New York University for its financial support. Notes and references Footnotes 1 Exposition Universelle, 1900: Publication de la commission, chargée de préparer la participation du Ministère des colonies. Les colonies françaises (Paris, 1901), p. 217. 2 Ibid. 3 E. Heckel, Notice sur le Musée et l’Institut colonial de Marseille, publiée àl’occasion de l’Exposition Universelle de 1900 (Paris, 1900). 4 The notice was published at the behest of the Ministry of the Colonies, sold at the colonial section of the Universal Exposition, and distributed to all parliamentarian politicians, as well as government officials and research centers. 5 See Marcel Roncayolo, L’imaginaire de Marseille. Port, ville, pôle, vol. v:Histoire du commerce et de l’industrie de Marseille,xixe-xxe siècles (Marseille, 1990). 6 See L. Morando, ‘Les Expositions coloniales nationales de Marseille de 1906 et 1922: manifestations locales ou nationales?’, Provence Historique 54 no. 216 (2004), pp. 229–52 (at p. 229n). 7 Recent work on French empire has explored this question of popular engagement. For two examples, see Edward Berenson, Heroes of Empire: Five charismatic men and the conquest of Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2011) and the essays in the collected volume, Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and visions of empire in France, ed. Tony Chafer and Amanda Sackur (New York, 2002). 8 Michael A. Osborne, The Emergence of Tropical Medicine in France (Chicago, 2014), p. 156. 9 The Méline tariff is one example. Proposed in 1892, it represented a revival of economic protectionism. Charles-Roux, then an Assembly deputy, strongly opposed the tariff, viewing its protectionist measures as detrimental to France’s southern port cities. See S. Persell, The French Colonial Lobby: 1889–1938 (Stanford, ca, 1983), pp. 314–15. 10 G. Aillaud, ‘Edouard Heckel, un savant organisateur: de la botanique appliquée à l’Exposition Coloniale de 1906’, Provence historique 43 no. 172 (1993), pp. 161–2. 11 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 26; Aillaud, op. cit. (note 10), p. 153. 12 One formative experience, Aillaud implies, was Heckel’s brush with death during a smallpox epidemic in Martinique. Perhaps as a result, by 1885 Heckel had begun to specialize in tropical botany and medicinal plants. See Aillaud, op. cit. (note 10). 13 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 1. 14 Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 165. 15 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 4. 16 Ibid., p. 7 17 Laurent Morando, ‘Les Instituts coloniaux de province (1893–1940): une action efficace?’, in L’Esprit économique imperial (1830–1970): Groupes de pression et réseaux du patronat colonial en France et dans l’empire (Paris, 2008), pp. 197–8. 18 Morando, op. cit. (note 17), n. 198. Morando is citing Emile Baillaud, L’Institut colonial de Marseille (1906–1926) (Marseille, 1927), pp. 62–3. 19 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 91–95. 20 Ibid., p. 7. 21 In a letter of May 1907 to the International Colonial Institute in Brussels, Heckel reported that the Marseille Chamber of Commerce had raised funds and arranged for a new Colonial Museum and Institute (cmim) building encompassing five floors. See ‘Compte rendu de la Session tenue à Bruxelles les 17, 18, et 19 Juin 1907’, Institut Colonial International (1907), p. 427. 22 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 11. 23 See, for example, G. Stocking (ed.), Objects and Others: Essays on museums and material culture (Madison, wi, 1985); M. Osborne, Nature, the Exotic, and the Science of French Colonialism (Bloomington, in, 1994); and P. Farber, ‘The transformation of natural history in the nineteenth century’, Journal of the History of Biology 15 no. 1 (1982), pp. 145–52. 24 The popularity of museums was reinforced by republican belief in ‘le leçon des choses’ – what Alice Conklin has called ‘the centerpiece of the Republic’s new scientific pedagogy’ from the late 1880s onward. See A. Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The republican idea of empire in France and West Africa, 1895–1930 (Stanford, ca, 1997), p. 83. 25 Heckel suggested that the Museum’s objects had value not just for their textural character but for the pedagogical ends they facilitated: ‘These collections . . . must also serve to instruct ‘par la parole’: see Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 2. 26 The 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary defined arabin as a carbohydrate contained in gum arabic, which rendered an adhesive. Copal was defined as a resinous substance from tropical trees used chiefly in making varnishes. 27 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 8. 28 Ibid., p. 16. 29 See Tony Bennett’s theory of a nineteenth-century ‘exhibitionary complex’, derived by considering spectacles, crowds, objects, and capitalism, in The Birth of the Museum: History, politics, culture (New York, 1995). 30 See ‘Compte rendu’, op. cit. (note 21), p. 427. 31 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 1–2. 32 Ibid., p. 5n. ‘We are behind other colonizing nations, which have for a long time operated colonial museums in their capitals . . . But it is necessary to say that none of these establishments, like ours in Marseille, possesses an institute of colonial research and education attached to its museum.’ 33 See L. Morando, “L’enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940): “Imperialisme municipal” ou réussite local?’, Outre-mers: revue d’histoire 91 no. 1 (2004), pp. 272–94. 34 Morando, op. cit. (note 17), p. 198. 35 Philip Nord has argued that a generational groundswell of republican sentiment finally emerged in the 1870s. His study of the free trade- and commerce-driven young men who successfully challenged the Paris Chamber of Commerce reminds one of Charles-Roux and company: see P. Nord, The Republican Moment: Struggles for democracy in nineteenth-century France (Cambridge, ma, 1998), pp. 48–63. 36 Heckel stood for and won political election in May 1884; he resigned two years later. Charles-Roux served as a deputy to the National Assembly in 1889, ending his term when the radicals took power in 1898. 37 It should be noted that Marseille government was not subservient to the business lobby. The Socialists held control of the city council at the fin-de-siècle. See William B. Cohen, Urban Government and the Rise of the French City: Five municipalities in the nineteenth century (New York, 1998). Heckel gives no indication of local partisan debates affecting his Museum. It received support from both the Council and Chamber. 38 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 6. 39 See S. Persell, ‘The colonial career of Jules Charles-Roux’, Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Western Society for French History 1 (1974), p. 313. 40 It is not far-fetched to suggest that regionalist positions on colonial policy were partly an outgrowth of discontent about domestic policies emanating from Paris that aimed to standardize and centralize the French provinces. On this ‘peasants into Frenchmen’ thesis, see Alice L. Conklin, Sarah Fishman, and Robert Zaretsky, France and its Empire since 1870 (New York, 2011), chapter 3. 41 M. Callmander et al., “The legacy of Henri Jumelle in Marseille: an overlooked collection of palms from Madagascar’, Candollea 66 no. 2 (2011), p. 419. 42 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), ‘L’Enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940)’, p. 273. 43 Ibid, p. 278. Lyon also campaigned to assert itself on national colonial policy: see J. Laffey, ‘Municipal imperialism in France: the Lyon Chamber of Commerce, 1900–1914’, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 119 no. 1 (1975), pp. 8–23. 44 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), pp. 3–6. 45 According to Morando, an average of fifteen students enrolled each year, while courses were freely accessible to auditors who needed to familiarize themselves with specific subjects touching on French colonial domains (Morando, op. cit. (note 33), p. 280). 46 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), ‘L’Enseignement colonial en province (1899–1940)’, p. 279. See also see Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 168. 47 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 16. 48 Charles-Roux and Heckel would serve together as Commissioner and Deputy, when the cmim played a central role in organizing Marseille’s own event – the Colonial Exposition of 1906. 49 Osborne, op. cit. (note 8), p. 169. 50 Historic maps of Marseille are available on the website of the city’s municipal archives. This article has made use of a map from 1916: ‘Plan de Marseille avec detail des vieux quartiers par Pierre Raoul pour l’Indicateur marseillais’, 1916. Archives Municipales de la ville de Marseille, http://archivesplans.marseille.fr/archivesplans, accessed 2 September 2017. 51 Morando, op. cit. (note 17). 52 Ibid., p. 198. 53 Heckel, op. cit. (note 3), p. 11. 54 Ibid., p. 7. 55 See Persell, op. cit. (note 9), pp. 35–6. He paraphrases the opinion expressed by Charles-Roux at the Colonial Congress of Marseille, 1906: ‘Capital investment and emigration of settlers were more important in the minds of potential investors than were the virtues of training natives to be good French citizens. [He] had patiently sought government funds to train technicians instead of educators for the colonies, and he credited his success to the efforts of the congresses and colonial societies in lobbying Parliament to appropriate money for such purposes.’ 56 Heckel, op cit. (note 3), p. 35. His experiments on the kola seed are analyzed in Aillaud’s article, ‘Edouard Heckel, un savant organisateur’, op. cit. (note 10). 57 Heckel, op cit. (note 3), pp. 77–85. 58 Ibid., p. 15. ‘Pharmaceutics’ is the scientific study of chemical dosage. In this case, Heckel refers to o’dika butter’s potential qualities for consumer use and implies that pharmaceutics will need to be involved (following which the product would be dispensed by pharmacists). 59 Ibid., p. 16. 60 Ibid., p. 15. 61 The ‘Notice’ included seven scholarly articles written by Colonial Museum affiliate scientists. Among the articles were ‘Rubber from the French Colonies’ and ‘Gum and Gum Resin from the French Colonies’: see Heckel, op cit. (note 3), pp. 41–75. 62 Heckel’s ‘Notice” did not neglect ethnography entirely. Such objects, however, were of limited interest to Heckel and the space he allotted to them in his text (as well as in the Museum itself) was marginal. 63 Morando, op. cit. (note 33), n. 280. Morando cites here the archives of Chambre de Commerce de Marseille, École Supérieure de Commerce de Marseille, cours coloniaux (1899–1940). 64 Callmander et.al., op. cit. (note 41), p. 419. 65 See Persell, op. cit. (note 9), p. 35: ‘Jules Charles-Roux set the tone of the [1906 Colonial] Congress by demanding abandonment of the abstract principles of eighteenth-century philosophes in favour of a pragmatic recognition of difference in native levels of development in the colonies.’ 66 See Roncayolo, op. cit. (note 5). 67 Yaël Simpson Fletcher, ‘City, Nation, and Empire in Marseille, 1919–1939, Ph.D. diss. (Emory University, 1999), p. 57. 68 See ‘Compte rendu’, op. cit. (note 21), p. 427, which cited Heckel’s May 1907 report to the International Colonial Institute. The Session lamented that stagnation seemed to have set in at the Colonial Museum of Marseille. 69 See, for example, A. Conklin, In the Museum of Man: Race, anthropology and empire in France, 1850–1950 (Ithaca, ny, 2013); N. Dias, Le musée d’Ethnographie du Trocadéro (1878–1908): Anthropologie et muséologie en France (Paris, 1991); D. Hale, Races on Display: French representations of colonized people, 1886–1940 (Bloomington, in, 2008); Benoît d’Estoire, Federico Neiburg and Lygia Sigaud (eds), Empires, Nations and Natives. Anthropology and state-making (Durham, nc, 2006); and E. Sibeud, Une science impériale pour l’Afrique? La construction des savoirs africanistes en France, 1878–1930 (Paris, 2002). 70 Simpson Fletcher, op. cit. (note 67), pp. 126–7. 71 On the Colonial Exhibition, for which the Paris Colonial Museum was built, see Patricia Morton, Hybrid Modernities: Architecture and representation at the 1931 Colonial Exposition, Paris (Cambridge, ma, and London, 2000); Pascal Blanchard, ‘L’union nationale: la rencontre des droites et des gauches autour de l’Exposition coloniale’ (pp. 269–86), and Steve Ungar, ‘L’Exposition coloniale (1931)’, (pp. 259–68), in Culture coloniale en France: de la Revolution français à nos jours, ed. Pascal Blanchard, Sandrine Lemaire and Nicolas Bancel (Paris, 2008). 72 I have found scant mention of Marseille’s Colonial Museum in the years after World War i. According to a press dossier on the website of Marseille’s cultural affairs office, the Museum and Institute closed in 1962, the same year of Algerian independence and mass immigration of former settlers of Algeria to southern France. It is perhaps for this complex of reasons that the museum erased any titular claim to represent French colonial interests. 73 The Museum collections have since been reassigned, seemingly by type of object. The botanical specimens are now preserved at the Université de Provence (Aix-Marseillé Université) and consultable by appointment at amu on premises near Marseille’s main train station. Curated by Bruno Vila, who writes and presents on the history of the collection and its use today, Heckel’s heritage lives on. The collection is known as the ‘Collection du Musée Colonial’ and comprises one room in which selected specimens are shown in their original cases. See website for the Université de Provence, ‘Musée Colonial’, https://cps.univ-amu.fr/musee-colonial, accessed 10 September 2017. 74 Mauss’s work, ‘Essai sur le don. Forme et raison de l’échange dans les sociétés archaïques’, first appeared in L’Année Sociologique, new ser. 1 (1923–4), pp. 30–186. Annette B. Weiner has suggested that ‘inalienable’ ethnographic objects in collections are seen to have more value than objects with a natural or mass-manufactured provenance (such as natural history specimens and their products): see A. Weiner, ‘Inalienable wealth’, American Ethnologist 12 no. 2 (1985), pp. 210–27. © The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

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Journal of the History of CollectionsOxford University Press

Published: Dec 23, 2017

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