All of the ethnology collections are the object of MNHN research, particularly with regard to the relationship between human activities and the natural environment: adaptation to environments and to climate change, management of resources and biodiversity, etc.

The ethnology collections include more than 4000 objects relative to the use of natural resources, be they plant, animal or mineral in nature, of agriculture, hunting and fishing, as well as lifestyles corresponding to specific natural environments. The ethnology collections cover the same geo-cultural regions as MNHN fieldwork: the Maghreb, Sahara, Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, Central Asia, etc.

Aside from the daily work of preserving and inventorying this recently created collection, efforts are being made to enrich it. Our acquisitions policy is based on criteria set down in 2008 by which the objects acquired must be representative of:

  • Humankind’s relationship with the environment and its climate diversity.
  • The diversity in representations of the natural and supernatural environment.
  • Skills and know-how and the processing chain.
  • Technical and cultural evolution in societies in a context of globalization.
  • Treatment of the human body as a means of defining identity.

The ethnology collections as a whole were created in 2008 following discussions in 2005-2007 on the pertinence of continued collecting after the original ethnographic collections were transferred to the Quai Branly Muséum. The creation of a new collection proved indispensable in that, for one thing, MNHN research carried out in the human sciences relies on the study of material culture and, moreover, its scientific communication, particularly the Muséum concept of the future Musée de l’Homme, required concrete illustration of the scientific concepts proposed.

While the ethnology collections welcome donations and bequests, most items are collected during field research. This makes it possible to provide them with a historical and cultural context, as part of a spatial and temporal framework of various human activity, be it technical, economic or cultural, etc.