Friday Heirloom 2018

Friday Heirloom 74: Musée National des Douanes, Bordeaux

Check out the Highlights of November here

“If you don’t dig into your soul, you’re done.” (Jack in “A Star is Born”)


Cover Photo: Hangin’ out with Monet (painting: Cabane de douaniers, effet d’après-midi) at the Musée National des Douanes

The areas of Bordeaux overlooking the waters are simply stunning. Not only the ocean, but also the river has its share of amazingness, facing ancient buildings, lights and countless bars.

One of these buildings happens to host the collections of The National Museum of Customs, which offers a view of the history of customs and its administration from ancient times to today. (Originally, the building was the place where all the goods for customs clearance were amassed.)


Packed with information, the museum presents the main tasks of customs administration with a look at its organisation in the larger system – the French state – as it interchanges with the world. The museum opened its doors in 1984 and, as I found out, it is the only museum of customs history in France.


“Balance de commerce” of France

Besides the architecture, one cannot help but notice how organized the space is –  and how various the collection. It was fun to discover a few forgotten pieces of customs life, with its people at the heart, and is surely one of the many administrations of this great country of France!



I can say with certitude that the view of this was unexpected. 13.000 objects between furniture, uniforms (including hats!), musical instruments, paintings and sculptures… and even what once was a real lion! Some of these objects are simple, some of them are complex, all of them offer an insider view on what was – and is – life within the customs administration.



I was also impressed at the view of a Monet (see cover photo) after turning one of the exhibits corners. It is apparently the only one that is held in public collections in the whole region of Aquitaine!


Artwork by Benjamin Vautier


Customs officers found these eggs in 1999 (part of an illicit excavation of fossils)

The museum is clear on its goals, which is nice to see with a collection of their size: “the gathering and conservation of historical collections and their exhibition to the public in order to educate and inform about the history of this authority, its development and place in society.”


An ad from 1910

What a great discovery it was the National Museum of Customs! Let me know your thoughts via email or on Instagram @imamusaller.

You can also visit the website to learn more.

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