Musée d’histoire de Nantes (Nantes History Museum) was originally the residence of the Dukes of Brittany and the castle was restored in the 1990s. It opened to the public as a museum in February 2007. The museum is not wholly dedicated to looking at slavery, but explores the history of the castle and the city. However, it is acknowledged that the Atlantic slave trade is a key part of that history. The themes covered within the museum begin with the construction of the castle in the 13th century, and then follow the development of Nantes as part of Brittany through the ages until the 17th century. The museum also examines trade, the impact of the French Revolution, industrialisation, the two world wars and a contemporary look at Nantes as an ‘Atlantic City’. The museum added several rooms in 2016 that looked with greater detail at modern history. It has been designated a 'Monument Historique' by the French government. In addition to the historical artefacts housed in the museum, interactive and digital media is incorporated throughout as a part of the museum's aim to showcase the history of the city not only through objects and art work, but also contemporary technology.
Slavery is mainly addressed in the exhibition ‘Trade and Black Gold in the 18th Century’, where the displays address the role Nantes played as a key French port for vessels embarking on the Triangular Trade. Objects on display include maps, paintings and a collection of printed canvases produced in Nantes that would have formed a significant proportion of the cargo taken on the first leg of the trade voyage, from France to Africa. As well as examining France’s role in the logistical aspects of the trade, this exhibition also includes interpretation about Haiti. This interpretation has a dual focus, with Haiti as the destination for most of the ships originating in Nantes and the site of the most successful slave revolt in the western hemisphere.
Other exhibitions within the museum also look generally at the larger events in French history and how they changed Nantes’s relationship with slavery. Within the exhibitions on Nantes and the Revolution, the long process of abolition and then re-entrenchment of slavery under Napoleon are discussed in the interpretation. Until 1831 Nantes was still France’s largest slave trading port despite the activity being previously outlawed in 1816. Similar to the Memorial to the Abolition in Nantes, the Nantes History Museum intends to provide a reflection on local history both good and bad.
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