Palais de la porte Doree

The 1931 International Colonial Exhibition allowed all the world to recognize the cultural superiority of France and other western nations through their colonial dominance. Created to house the colonial exhibition, the Palais de la porte Doree still remains as a reminder of the past opinions on colonization and as a current educator on the history of immigration.

In 1931, the Palais de la porte Doree was constructed for the International Colonial Exhibition that was held in the same year. The Palais was meant to house the Museum of the Colonies, which recounted the imperialistic aims of the westernized world. Since then, the Palais has undergone numerous transitions before evolving into the current Museum of Immigration History. The building still houses the Tropical Aquarium in its basement, which has existed in the space since the 1931 origins of the site. The 1931 International Colonial Exhibition was advertised as an event that would allow visitors to travel "Round the world in a single day" by walking around the Bois de Vincennes and the Palais de la porte Doree in an attempt to project the wealth and dominance that a country gained by practicing colonization. The Palais provided a history of past colonization and attempted to legitimize the practice by demonstrating the superiority of Western culture over their subjects by showing peoples from colonies across the world in their traditional garb along with art, pictures, and films from these areas.

Similar to earlier Exposition Universelles, the International Colonial Exhibition acted as an opportunity for France to demonstrate the country's political dominance on international scale. However, in 1931 rather than portraying this sentiment through technological innovation, France asserted her cultural superiority by displaying the peoples of her conquests in the equivalent of a human zoo. Over eight million visitors came to the International Colonial Exhibition and were able to experience foreign cultures first-hand, which might have never been possible otherwise. The exhibition garnered support for the subjugation of colonial peoples due to the great deal of exposure to the world the event provided to all those who visited and the sense that the colonies were better off with the aid of the mother country. Colonization seemed righteous, as France other Western nations were providing beneficial resources to primitive people and were receiving wealth in return.

Following the closure of the 1931 International Colonial Exhibition, the Palais de la porte Doree transitioned to initially house the Museum of French Overseas Dominion, which mainly focused on the arts of colonial nations and their representations. The functions of the museum continually changed to reflect the public reception of colonialism. As the acceptance of justifications for dominions throughout the world changed, so did the popularity and success of the museum. For this reason, the exhibition space housed in the museum has changed numerous times since its construction in 1931. As French and other Western countries have shrunk their dominions, the function of the museum evolved.

Today, the Palais de la porte Doree houses the Museum of the History of Immigration with a permanent exhibition that traces how immigration has changed through the years, an exhibition that solely narrates the evolution of the uses of the building, and a temporary exhibition that showed the alteration of the representations of immigrant through photography. While much of the information about the history of immigration was provided solely in French, the overall message of the exhibition seemed to relay that moving to a new country causes unimaginable emotional difficulties. The discrimination against immigrants furthers these issues as well. Through this permanent exhibition the curators at the Palais de la porte Doree seem to be attempting to mend the dark past of the building with present day beliefs on immigration and colonization. This effort appears to be well received and attracted numerous visitors, tourists and locals alike, to learn more about the present and past challenges faced by immigrants.

While much has changed within the building and in the neighboring Bois de Vincennes, one space that has remained constant in the Palais de la porte Doree is the aquarium housed in the basement of the building. Just as in 1931, the space is filled with aquatic creatures meant to attract and educate visitors. While the space was still crowded when I visited the museum, I felt that the aquarium had done little to evolve since its 1931 creation. The exotic animals have surely changed, but the amount of space they were provided in their enclosures seemed inhumane. Much like people were subjugated in the International Colonial Exhibition, the animals that live in the aquarium of the Palais de le porte Doree appear to be mistreated due to overcrowding. The animals were all relegated to the basement of the building, and their care seemed almost like an afterthought, as there were no employees monitoring the area to ensure that visitors did not mistreat the animals. While the Palais acts as if they have progressed from the Colonial Exhibition, the aquarium feels hauntingly similar with animals taking the place of people on display in their enclosures.

While much has changed since the 1931 International Colonial Exhibtion, the physical structure of the building and the spaces that surround it remain the same. The Bois de Vincennes still attracts hundreds of visitors a day, and while these people no longer see humans in exhibition spaces, they do enjoy leisure in the places where these events occurred. The Palais de la porte Doree has attempted to reconcile its storied past with the present but still represents the ideals of the 1931 International Colonial Exhibition. Though the meaning of this site has changed drastically over the years, the sentiments of French dominance from the exhibition remain. The physical structure of the building creates a lasting legacy and constant reminder of the country's inescapable past.

Images

Entrance Gate

Entrance Gate

This image shows tourists walking through the entrance to the Museum of the History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Exposition d'ethnographie coloniale. Champ de Mars, Palais des Arts lib�©raux. 150 Dahom�©ens. Le Roi Jonai chef d'Agou�©, Prince Kosoko, 2 Ministres du Roi Toffa. Chefs, amazones, guerriers, f�©ticheurs. Moeurs, costumes, habitations, combats, etc... : [affiche] / [Non identifi�©], 1889

Exposition d'ethnographie coloniale. Champ de Mars, Palais des Arts lib©raux. 150 Dahom©ens. Le Roi Jonai chef d'Agou©, Prince Kosoko, 2 Ministres du Roi Toffa. Chefs, amazones, guerriers, f©ticheurs. Moeurs, costumes, habitations, combats, etc... : [affiche] / [Non identifi©], 1889

Source: Mon Emile L©vy Imp parisienne 132 rue Montmartre (Paris). Exposition d'ethnographie coloniale. Champ de Mars, Palais des Arts lib©raux. 150 Dahom©ens. Le Roi Jonai chef d'Agou©, Prince Kosoko, 2 Ministres du Roi Toffa. Chefs, amazones, guerriers, f©ticheurs. Moeurs, costumes, habitations, combats, etc... : [affiche] / [Non identifi©]. 1889. Public domain. ark:/12148/btv1b9011234c. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b9011234c/f1.item.r=colonial%20exhibition%20paris. View File Details Page

Le Monde colonial illustr�© : revue mensuelle, commerciale, �©conomique, financiere et de d�©fense des int�©rets coloniaux, Booklet Cover

Le Monde colonial illustr© : revue mensuelle, commerciale, ©conomique, financiere et de d©fense des int©rets coloniaux, Booklet Cover

Source: Le Monde colonial illustr© : revue mensuelle, commerciale, ©conomique, financiere et de d©fense des int©rets coloniaux, 1931, Public Domain, /12148/bpt6k9743609b, http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k9743609b/f7.image.r=exposition%20coloniale%201931%20images View File Details Page

Monkeys

Monkeys

This image is of the monkey statues that are in front of the Museum of the History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

New Visitor

New Visitor

This image show the view of the Museum of the History of Immigration from the road. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Exposition Map

Exposition Map

This image shows a map of the Universelle Exposition of 1931 in the entrance hall of the Museum of the History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Commissioned Colonial Exhibition

Commissioned Colonial Exhibition

This image shows the railing above the indoor entrance to the Museum of the History of Immigration noting the commission of the colonial exhibition. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Remembering the Exhibition

Remembering the Exhibition

This image shows the view of the history section of the Museum of History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Looking Down

Looking Down

This image shows the tile floor of the center of the Museum of the History of Immigration. The floor is decorated with scenes from the french colonies. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Colonial Scenes

Colonial Scenes

This image is from the second floor of the history section of the Museum of the History of Immigration where there are artifacts and history commemoration the original constructions and uses for the museum. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Aquarium

Aquarium

This image is of a poster advertising the aquarium in the Colonial Exhibition which is on display in the history section of the Museum of the History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Crocodiles

Crocodiles

This image is of an advertisement poster for the aquarium in the Colonial Exhibition. This poster includes an image of the crocodiles that were in the aquarium. This poster is on display in the history section of the Museum of the History of Colonial Exhibitions. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

White Crocodile

White Crocodile

This image shows one of several albino crocodiles currently in the aquarium at the Museum of the History of Immigration. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

The Park

The Park

This image shows people in the park beside the Museum of the History of Immigration enjoying the sunshine and the lake. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Faces

Faces

This image is of part of an exhibit in the Museum of the History of Immigration that is currently on display. May 2018 | Creator: Frances Conner View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Brantley Sanders, “Palais de la porte Doree,” W&L Paris, accessed January 20, 2022, https://omeka.wlu.edu/wluparis/items/show/78.

Share this Story