[1]  La chaumière africaine ou Histoire d'une famille française jetée sur la côte occidentale de l'Afrique à la suite du naufrage de la frégate "La Méduse"  [The African Dwelling or the History of a French Family Thrown onto the Western Coast of Africa following the Shipwreck of the Frigate “The Medusa”], Charlotte Dard; introduced by Doris Y. Kadish. Paris-Budapest-Torino: Harmattan, 2005.Bibliothèque de Recherche DT 530.5 .A9 DAR

[2]  Journal de Rose de Freycinet: campagne de l'Uranie (1817-1820)  [Diary of Rose de Freycinet: Campaign of the Urania (1817-1820)] from the original manuscript with notes by Charles, Annotateur. Paris: Société d'Éditions Géographiques, Maritimes et Coloniales, 1927. Réserve Rés.-F-L-B-001949

[3] Voyage de découvertes aux terres Australes: exécuté par ordre de Sa Majesté l'empereur et roi, sur les corvettes le Géographe, le Naturaliste, et la goëlette le Casuarina, pendant les années 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 et 1804; [Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Territories: Executed by order of His Majesty the Emperor and King, on the Corvettes the Geographer, the Naturalist, and on the Schooner the Casuarina, during the years 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803 and 1804;]  published by imperial decree, under the ministry of Monsieur de Champagny and drafted by F. Péron, Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet,  Charles-Alexandre Lesueur, Martin Petit Nicolas Imprimeur Paris.  From the Imperial Printer’s, 1807-16. Reserve A 200302 v.2 ex.2  DU 99 F 89 v. 1  DU 99 F 89 v. 2  DU 99 F 89 Atlas v.1

[4] Promenade autour du monde pendant les années 1817, 1818, 1819 et 1820, sur les corvettes du roi l'Uranie et la Physicienne \ [Expedition around the World during the years of 1817, 1818, 1819 and 1820, on the King’s Corvettes, the Urania and the Female Physician], commissioned by Freycinet, by J. Arago, expedition draughtsman. Paris: Leblanc, 1822.
Reserve 1000 v.1 et 1000 v.2 1001 v.1 1001v.2

[5] Souvenirs d'un aveugle : Voyage autour du monde. / by J. Arago, work enriched by sixty drawings and scientific notes. First Volume (Five). Paris: Hortet et Ozanne, 1839-40. Reserve Res.-MH-L-A-004730   Res.-MH-L-A-004731   Res.-MH-L-A-004732   Res.-MH-L-A-004733   Res.-MH-L-A-004734

[6] A travers l'Arménie russe : Karabagh, Vallée de l'Araxe, Massif de l'Ararat [Across Russian Armenia: Karabakh, Arax Valley, Ararat Massif] B. Chantre. Paris: Hachette, 1892

Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche MH-L-B-000893

A travers l'Arménie russe... [Across Russian Armenia…], B. Chantre. Paris: Hachette & Cie, 1893. Angers: Arcob, [19..?]

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-B-000953 and MFL 54

Photographs of her husband Ernest Chantre held in the Image Library of the Musée du Quai Branly

[7] Entries for objects and photographs held at the Musée du quai Branly

[8] Idem, cf. Note 7

[9] Idem, cf. Note 7

[10] Parmi la jeunesse russe: de Moscou au Caucase, Ella Maillart; Pref. by Luc Durtain.  Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-A-003014 

[11] Des Monts Célestes aux Sables Rouges, Ella Maillart. Paris: B. Grasset, 1934

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-A-013441 et MH-L-A-013442

[12] Oasis interdites de Pékin au Cachemire: illustrated by 32 gravure plates and maps, Ella K. Maillart. Paris: B. Grasset, [1937]

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-A-010865 et MH-L-A-010773

[13] For a complete presentation of the voyage of Germaine Tillion and Thérèse Rivière, see the article by Sarah Frioux-Salgas and Carine Peltier

[14] Ibidem, Note 7, Inventory collection 71.1936.2 and collection 71.1937.9

[15] See the catalogue of museum documentation and archives

[16] Ibid. Note 7

[17] Communications au Premier Congrès de préhistoire d'Extrême-Orient, Hanoi Janvier 1932 [Communications at the First Congress on the Pre-History of the Far East, Hanoi January 1932]: print. by Extrême-Orient, 1933

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-B-004205

Mégalithes du Haut-Laos (Hua Pan, Tran Ninh) [Megaliths of Upper Laos (Hua Pan, Tran Ninh), Madeleine Colani. Paris: Les Éditions d'Art et d'Histoire, print. 1935

Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-B-004199 and MH-L-B-004200 and B 20181 v.26 and B 20181 v.25

[18] Prières accompagnant les rites agraires chez les Mu'ỏ'ng de M̃ú'c \[Prayers accompanying the Agrarian Rites among the Mu'ỏ'ng of M̃ú'c]: supplementary thesis for the Doctor of Letters presented at the Faculté des Lettres in the Université de Paris, Jeanne Cuisinier. Hanoi: École Française d'Extrême-Orient, 1951

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-B-005881 and MH-L-B-005882 and DS 578.55 .Muon CUI and B 20181 v.33 Réserve, Rés.-N-B-000396

Les Mu'ò'ng: géographie humaine et sociologie  [The Mu'ò'ng: Human and Social Geography]: thesis for the Doctor of Letters presented at the Faculté des Lettres in the Université de Paris, Jeanne Cuisinier. Paris: [Institut d'Ethnologie], 1946

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, B 16249 and N-B-000883  and N-B-000579 and DS 536.55 .Muon CUI and MH-L-B-005796  Rés.-MH-L-B-005800 and Rés.-MH-L-B-005799

Les Mu'ò'ng: géographie humaine et sociologie [The Mu'ò'ng: Human and Social Geography]: Work published with support from the Recherche Scientifique Coloniale, Jeanne Cuisinier. Paris: Institut d'Ethnologie, 1948

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, GN 2 P252 v.45 and MFL 79

[19] Sumangat: l'âme et son culte en Indochine et en Indonésie, Jeanne Cuisinier; pref. by Louis Massignon. Paris: Gallimard, 1951

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, N-A-000505 and N-A-001642  and MH-L-A-012291 and MH-L-A-012292 and DS 505.5 .R3 CUI

[20] Other mission account by J. Cuisinier: Journal de Voyage: Malaisie (1933), Indonésie (1952-55) [Travel Journal: Malaysia (1933), Indonesia (1952-1955)], Jeanne Cuisinier; extracts ed. by Daniel Perret. Paris: Association Archipel, 1999

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, 50432 and A 47602  and A 47603

[21] Danses magiques de Kelantan, Jeanne Cuisinier. Paris: Institut d'Ethnologie, 1936

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, Usuels GN 2 P252 v.22 and MH-L-B-008957 and MH-L-B-008958 and N-B-000323 and B 8391

[22] Ibid. Note 7

[23] Danses cambodgiennes, d'après la version originale du Samdach Chaufea Thiounn \ [Cambodian Dances, after the Original Version by Samdach Chaufea Thiounn], revised and enlarged by Jeanne Cuisinier, illustrations by Sappho Marchal, pref. by M. P. Pasquier. Hanoi: Print. by Extrême-Orient, 1930

 Médiathèque d’Étude et de Recherche, MH-L-B-008964 and MH-L-B-008965

on the subject of female travellers

A presentation from the collections of the Musée du quai Branly

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Oiled paper lantern shop for the children’s festival © Musée du quai Branly, photo by Madeleine Colani

In the history of travel, women have often been forgotten or overlooked.  Some recall the voyages of sailors and explorers, and the Grand Tour taken by young aristocrats in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, distant and dangerous voyages were not the sole province of men.

Women have travelled throughout history, alone, in a group or as companions. These voluntary or imposed travels were made for a variety of reasons. They may have been for amusement, like the journeys made by European aristocrats, trips for the bathing season or tours of Switzerland and Italy. They may have been for financial reasons, by the wives of colonists or actresses on tour. Religion was another reason of travel, for religious missionaries or for migrants fleeing religious conflicts. Political reasons displaced young aristocrats, who were married to men on the other side of Europe, or political activists, who were sent voluntarily or forcibly into exile.  Later, at the birth of the 20th century, the first “scientific” women began to visit the ethnographic “field”.

Women also travelled as informed observers, encountering native peoples and collecting objects, some of which were unknown and unusual, associated with practices alien to Western customs. Others unveiled their adventures in printed accounts. The most scrupulous wrote accounts and collected and documented objects selected for return to the country. This explains the wealth and variety of the collections sent by women.

Objects, photographs, drawings, printed texts and archives, the collections from these voyages allow us to trace and illustrate elements of the history of female travellers. These “souvenir” objects, picked up on travels or collected on scientific missions, also put into perspective the material conditions of the voyages, the danger and discomfort, the discoveries of unknown lands and human encounters.

By studying the collections, it is possible to identify the reasons why women travelled and their areas of interest, such as the condition of minorities or the education of women.

The diversity of situations and personalities prevents a complete classification of female travellers. However, it is possible to draw up several profiles: scientists, ethnologists and archaeologists, preceded by all the other female travellers.

See also the “female travellers” bibliography"

Travellers’ accounts and images from the first female travellers

The collections of the Musée du quai Branly provide information on voyages made by women in the 19th century. This was an age when men travelled around the world, explored, conquered and drew up inventories and maps. Women began to write and to share in the infatuation with tales of voyages and exploration. They contributed to journals, such as the Revue des Deux Mondes or the Tour du Monde, to publish their adventures, often in a serialised format. 

Here, we must refer to  Charlotte Dard  and her account:  La chaumière africaine ou Histoire d'une famille française jetée sur la côte occidentale de l'Afrique à la suite du naufrage de la frégate "La Méduse" [1]. [The African Dwelling or the History of a French Family Thrown onto the Western Coast of Africa following the Shipwreck of the Frigate “The Medusa”]  Charlotte Dard was a survivor from the frigate “La Méduse”, which sank off the coast of Senegal in 1816. One hundred and fifty people boarded the makeshift boats that drifted for ten days, as painted by Géricault in the Radeau de la Méduse [Raft of the Medusa]. 

This autobiography is a magnificent testimony of the eventful life of Charlotte Dard, of her strength of character and her vision of balanced relationships in the colonies. She tells of both the shipwreck and her life in Africa. She was 18 when she left for Africa and 26 when she began to write. She stigmatised the disaster of this colonial adventure: her father’s ruin and her attempts to survive as a farmer with her mixed-race brothers. In an era when France refused to abolish slavery and established the requirements of colonial order, she saw their future in reciprocal exchanges with the Senegalese and justified her father’s decision to protect escaped slaves, which resulted in the family being shunned by white society.

This is the only testimony by a French women living in Africa at this time. This text, published in 1824, would be forgotten for nearly two centuries.

Another passionate account was written with the elegant impertinence of Rose Pinon de Saulces de Freycinet.

On 17 September 1817, Rose de Freycinet, aged 23, stowed away on a boat operated by the French navy, the Uranie. She was disguised as a man and acted with the complicity of her husband, the commander of the ship! She would be the first woman to return alive from a circumnavigation, after a shipwreck at the Tierra del Fuego.

The captain was acquitted by the Council of War thanks to the wealth of the collections he brought back to the Museum, which required 20 years of work to publish. Thanks perhaps also to the fact that his wife returned safe and sound! Rapidly eclipsed on a scientific level, the voyage of the Uranie sparked a revival of interest thanks to the presence of Rose.

There are three different accounts of this expedition.  The diary of Rose de Freycinet [2] was the result of a reworking of letters written to a cousin which were perhaps not destined for publication.  The tone of the passages retained for publication is that of social correspondence, not very spontaneous.

The remarks of Rose de Freycinet are still useful as a complement to the official accounts: her husband’s diary [3] and the diary by on-board draughtsman Jacques Arago [4]. The latter made many anecdotes of the voyage, which illustrated the courage of Rose de Freycinet. The chapter concludes in a mournful tribute on her death during the cholera epidemic of 1832.

When she went ashore, such as during their stay in Guam, Rose de Freycinet continued to make observations, noting down everything that affected her. Her observations are much more acute than the corresponding account by Arago. 

The collections contain a series of drawings made on Tahiti by Adèle de Dombasle [5]. These date from 1847 - 1848. She accompanied Edmond de Ginoux de La Coche, a Republican journalist and fierce anti-colonialist, to Papeete.  He collected objects in Polynesia and established the collection of the “Musée Ginoux”, held at the Musée de Cannes. The drawings by Adèle de Dombasle demonstrate her benevolent observation of the Tahitians. She made portraits of the queen, king and chiefs she met in Tahiti, as well as drawings of canoes or of a shoe merchant in Valparaiso.

In 1890, Mrs B. Chantre accompanied her husband Ernest, an archaeologist and ethnologist, to Armenia, where they stayed for five months, then to Turkey, for 6 months. Her accounts are peppered with observations on local customs, peoples, specialities and monuments. She describes the costumes and tells of her setbacks in taking anthropometric measurements of the women. The account of the voyage, published in the Tour du Monde [6] in 1891, can be compared with the 259 photos we hold which were taken by her husband.

The very first journeys taken by Alexandra David Neel were childhood escapes. From 1890-1891, she travelled in Asia for several years and succeeded in reaching Lhasa in 1924, an exploit that made her known around the world. At the age of 100½, several months before her death, she requested for her passport to be renewed.

Her collections of objects and photographs [7] are evidence of her mystical quest and her great knowledge of eastern religions.  The photographs depict religious ceremonies, portraits of monks, views of monasteries, as well as market scenes and portraits of soldiers and public figures. The 200 artefacts include beautiful textiles and Buddhist ritual objects from Tibet, China and Japan. 

Odette du Puigaudeau [8] had a very engaging personality and an original life story. She became an ethnologist, after having already been a fashion designer, journalist and designer. Her first fieldwork as an ethologist was into the working conditions of Breton sailors; she then settled in Algeria and crossed the Sahara desert in 1934 in the company of her friend, the painter Marion Sénones. Her collections comprise more than 150 objects from everyday life: travel sack, tent ornament, theology manuscripts, sandals, tobacco pouch. The associated archives on the collections of these objects are also included. In addition, more than 150 photographs depict tents, caves, courtyards of houses and desert landscapes. Her ethnographic, scientific and literary work pays homage to the peoples of Western Sahara.

The travels of Ella Maillart turned her into a writer, photographer, journalist and adventurer. She discovered the early Soviet Union and Central Asia, before undertaking a voyage to China in 1935, from Peking to Srinagar. In 1939, she set off with Annemarie Schwarzenbach in a Ford to cross Afghanistan. She spent five years in an ashram in India, before becoming a tour guide in all the countries where she lived.

The museum owns her photographs of Nepal and Uzbekistan, the oldest of which date from 1932 [9].  In 1935, she sold several objects from China and Manchuria to the Musée de l’Homme, during its construction.

The museum library also holds first editions of Parmi la jeunesse russe: de Moscou au Caucase [10], dating from 1932, and Des Monts Célestes aux Sables Rouges [11] , published in 1934. We know about her travels in China thanks to her book Oasis interdites de Pékin au Cachemire, une femme à travers l'Asie centrale en 1935 [12], which comes from the library of Thérèse Rivière.

de thèses en collectes d'objet documentées des voyageuses scientifiques

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Portrait of Thérèse Rivière © Musée du quai Branly, photo by Jacques Faublée

Many female scientists travelled in order to reinforce their research. Among them were Thérèse Rivière and Germaine Tillion, Madeleine Colani and Jeanne Cuisinier.

The sister of Georges-Henri Rivière, Thérèse Rivière departed on a mission to Algeria, 1934 – 1936, with Germaine Tillion[13].

From the mission to the Aures, Thérèse Rivière brought back 857 objects, and Germaine Tillion 130 [14]. The museum records of each object were carefully written by Thérèse Rivière; they include the names of known fabricants and a photo showing the stages of fabrication and the use of the objects.

The objects and photographs selected present local housing constructions or agrarian techniques, along with photos of events: weddings, sowing, circumcisions, etc. The archives [15] of Thérèse Rivière include around twenty field notebooks, the linguistic survey for the mission, a set of drawings made by the inhabitants of several villages, the mission report, planned publications and texts from various lectures. They also include some documents connected to other missions she carried out several years later, still in Algeria.

From one continent to another, in accordance with the French colonial settlements between the wars, Indochina was the site of research carried out by Madeleine Colani and Jeanne Cuisinier.

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The two men wear necklaces of silver, the woman wears a necklace and earrings of silver © Musée du quai Branly, photo by Madeleine Colani

It was Paul Doumer who called Madeleine Colani to Indochina. In parallel to her work as a professor of natural history, she obtained a Doctor of Sciences from the university and the state. In 1929, she led a mission for EFEO, made discoveries of human remains, carried out tours in the provinces of Indochina and published a series of articles on comparative ethnology.

She left 349 photos [16]: pottery, minority ethnic groups, portraits of women and children. She also captured scenes of everyday life, as varied as burials and techniques for transporting salt. She brought back more than 2000 objects, including a basket, women’s jewellery, textiles, toys and traditional musical instruments. Dossiers of works, held in the archives, show an entry was made in the collections in 1933 and 1935. The library holds her writings on the prehistory of Vietnam and Laos [17].

Another exceptional scientist, Jeanne Cuisinier, was a student of Marcel Mauss and specialised in the ethnology of South-Eastern Asia. Her work focused particularly on the Mường [18] of Vietnam. Her work entitled Sumangat [19] explored the representations and cults of spirits in South-Eastern Asia, particularly in French Indochina and Indonesia [20]. Her book Danses magiques de Kelantan [21] investigated the magical dances of Malaysia.

1967 photos demonstrate the wealth of her discoveries and encounters on missions in 1937-1938 and in 1955. She combined portraits of people she met and the incongruous events on her travels with photographs relating to her research topics: ceremonies, handicrafts, fabrication of puppets, women’s work and dances. In a collection of more than 1200 objects [22], the most remarkable in terms of their diversity and quality of workmanship are the shadow theatres, models, jewellery, textiles and musical instruments. In terms of printed material, we hold a copy of *Danses Cambodgiennes [Cambodian Dances] [23], published in Hanoi in 1930.

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Photograph belonging to the series entitled “Ruby’s Room” © Musée du quai Branly, photo by Anne Noble


The collections of the Musée du quai Branly continue to be enriched by contemporary photographs, objects and archives, such as the photographs of the rites and ceremonies of the Malinke in Mali by Agnès Pataux.  As well as the explorations of Anne Noble, an Australian photographer honoured at the photography biennial Photoquai in 2007, whose photos have travelled to us.