Are you able-bodied and do you read French fluently?
If your answer to both of these is 'Yes', then this is an excellent museum for you. It contains very important remains from the area's prehistoric, Celto-Ligurian, Greek and Roman past. And it displays some excellent models which very helpfully recreate ancient buildings as they would have been. It displays everything in large spaces in a museum newly opened in 1995.
But do you NOT read French? Then you will struggle in this museum to understand and appreciate what you are looking at. The labels throughout this museum are exclusively in French.
The majority of tourists visiting European attractions who are not French-speaking have at least some English. Every B&B owner, every restauranteur, every shopkeeper in France knows this and makes admirable attempts to learn English so that he/she can communicate with almost all tourists — just as we use all the French that we can muster when we communicate with them, and in doing so show our respect for their country and language.
Why does this museum fail to show non-French speakers similar respect? They have a very brief written overview of the museum in English, but this is no help at all in understanding any single item on display. There are some videos available in French with English subtitles, but these are background material; again, they do not help one to understand the specific items displayed. Many European museums with extremely valuable contents, like Greece (with far less finance at their disposal) and Italy (with considerable difficulties in providing safe access in their old buildings), manage to provide labels in both their own languages and English. Why not Arles?
As if the above were not enough of a problem, are you able-bodied or not? My partner is not — she uses a mobility scooter; others in her situation use a wheelchair.
If, like her, you are in a wheelchair or scooter, this museum appears to have taken a conscious decision to deny you and her the possibility to access all its contents. Yes, it has a ramp that allows you to enter the building, and another to allow you to view its wonderful mosaics. Yes, it has space between the exhibits to allow you to see them and manoeuvre safely. But can you see the labels to every exhibit? — no you cannot; a large number of them can ONLY be seen by an adult who is STANDING, so if you are at wheelchair level, you will be UNABLE to read them without a companion generous enough (and with enough time) to read them aloud to you.
This is not equality; it is not what the EU means by equality of access. Someone responsible for laying out this museum as recently as 1995 knew this. Apparently they did not care enough.
This museum fails to recognise that France is a member of the European Union, and ITS past is ALL OUR past. Very many of us are interested in the contents of this museum, and we all have a right to have access to it. The museum appears to have the financial resources and skills it would need to give us all equal access to its exhibits by labelling them for EVERYBODY, but has clearly decided not to do so. This museum does France's reputation vis à vis tourists no favours, and I say this as someone who loves France and spends considerable time there.
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