It was nearly 50 years ago that prehistoric cave paintings were discovered in one of the caves just down the road from us. Apparently, it was somewhat of an accident; the cavers were on their way out of the cave, and had to queue up at a narrowing of the passage. The last one, standing around waiting, happened to look back and his lamp caught the first of several images on the wall.
Some 30 years later a plan was hatched to open a museum to exploit these findings and put them into context for the public, and after 20 years of administrative gestation, a couple of years of construction and nearly 2 million euros of taxpayers' funds, the museum opened to the public this weekend.
We went to an avant-première that was offered for free to locals. The museum is pretty good. It covers the natural history of the area from geological time to the present, and the cave paintings and other aspects of human habitation are explained in this context. The centrepiece is a big cinematic display of a computer model of the cave interior, that you can navigate using a joystick and buttons, in the manner of computer games like The Elder Scrolls or Half Life (complete with sounds of pattering feet when you move). Nothing to shoot at, though.
Everything has to be 'ludique' these days; 'interactive' is perhaps a good translation, although dictionaries will give you 'playful'. As well as the computer game cave navigation, there are, for example, reconstructed human and neanderthal skulls, mounted on shafts where you can turn a handle to make them spin. It saves walking around the case, I guess. You can also stick your head in different holes in a cupboard to experience the sounds and smells of different local vegetations, which struck me as interesting and innovative.
There is a fair number of security cameras. I didn't realise, but apparently, some of the exhibits are worth several hundred thousand euro.
The explanatory labels were in English as well as French, with only a few niggly translation faults. A pendant made from a pebble was described as a pendant on pebble rather than simply a pebble pendant, for example. These were small faults in a generally well-presented exhibition.
All in all, a decent, little museum; we'll definitely recommend it as a worthwhile visit to the guests who come to stay with us.