Visit the comic strip museum in Angoulême – the Musée de la bande dessinée (BD)
It is, if you like, the Louvre for comics – with a collection of more than 8,000 original drawings and over 110,000 magazines and comic books, the Musée de la bande dessinée in Angoulême, the Charente, is the largest comic strip museum in Europe and arguably the world. The collection includes all the great names from Hergé who created Tin Tin and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, the two men behind Asterix, as well as Elzie Segar who created Popeye. There are also comprehensive sections, devoted to American comic strips, including Peanuts and Marvel Comics.
Opened in June 2009, it is officially designated as a Musée de France which puts it alongside such institutions as the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles in cultural importance. In France comic art, called bande dessinée (often shortened to BD), is considered a ‘ninth art’ and 33,600,000 comic books are sold each year.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, the Musée de la bande dessinée is found down by the Charente river in a newly converted chai (warehouse that used to store cognac – see picture above). Not all of the illustrations are on display at the one time – there is a permanent collection plus a revolving series of temporary exhibitions.
What to see in the Musée de la bande dessinée
The museum is divided into four sections. The main, and largest area within the public side of the museum, tells of the 150-year old history of the comic strip, showing the different styles of the art, from those that were more painterly in style to the more familiar drawings.
The comic strips are displayed under spot-lights in long glass pods giving the museum an air of the film ‘Space Odyssey 2001.’ Television screens show interviews with some of the more well-known creators, from Belgium’s Hergé to America’s Segar. Strong sections on Mickey Mouse and the Marvel Comics, amongst others, show how American comics influenced the genre. There is also an area devoted to Japan’s manga comics.
The information is in French – most of the pods have laminated cards with explanations in English and Spanish but while good are not as comprehensive as those in French.
Also in this area are large, comfy banks of seating, each with a small revolving bookshelf of comics books (in English as well as French) for people to choose from. Not just for adults, on the day we went to visit, the sofas were filled with children quietly reading.
The second section of the Musée de la bande dessinée is called the L’atelier which shows how a comic strip is created. There is one computer that allows children to put their own comic strip together but the emphasis is very definitely on reading rather than doing. The Salon and Galerie are for temporary collections, including those of a more fragile nature and which cannot stand strong light for long.
The museum shop is excellent. There you can buy post-cards and small gifts including diaries and key-rings and DIY arts projects for children. The pièce de résistance, however, is the excellent collection of books in the genre, some of which are in English.
Musée de la bande dessinée opening times:
Tuesday-Friday: 10am-6pm; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays (except January 1, May 1 and December 25): 2pm-6pm. In summer (July 1 – August 31), the museum is open one hour later at the end of the day.
There is a lot of free parking at museum which sits on the banks of the river below the main part of town. Or park in centre ville and walk, via a footpath, down the hill and across a pedestrian bridge. The walk, back, however, is quite steep.
Musée de la bande dessinée website: www.citebd.org