As Thanksgiving approaches, we are grateful to you, our supporters, who have brought us this far in our documentary on Teilhard. This year has been very rich, with an extensive filming trip to China in May. We wrote you about that earlier, though we still have more to tell you. But just recently we went to France to research locations there for a filming trip coming up in May, 2018. Our first stop was the Museum national d’histoire naturelle.
The Paris National Museum of Natural History includes several buildings. The Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy is where Teilhard studied under Marcelin Boule starting in 1912. His studies were interrupted when he was called up to serve in WWI in 1914 and continued after the war. After receiving his doctorate in 1920 he worked in the museum under Boule’s direction.
It was a memorable experience to visit the Museum exhibit space and to see there many fossils that Teilhard contributed to the Museum collection from his first years in China. It was perhaps even more memorable to visit the offices once occupied by Teilhard and the Museum director Marcelin Boule a century ago. The furniture has not changed in a hundred years! Same desks, tables, cabinets and bookshelves!
We also visited the Institut Catholique, which is in the same location as it was a century ago and many rooms look the same.
Teilhard held the Geology Chair at the Institut Catholique starting in 1920. Extremely popular, his classes were filled to overflowing.
Institut Catholique has recently been renovated, taking into account modern needs for security. But even renovated it evokes the period when Teilhard taught geology there.
So, this trip (which coincided with a special seminar on Teilhard and World War I that we attended) was a big success. We had hoped to be filming in October, but that proved to be not possible for a number of reasons. But visiting these locations provided us with lots of new details that we hadn’t known before, and which will make the May filming trip even richer.
For those of you thinking about year end charitable donations, please keep The Teilhard Project in mind. We have raised half of our budget, and hope to begin editing even before we go back to France and England. All contributions, no matter how small, are welcome. And we have a variety of ways to contribute. As always, we thank you for your support.
Now here are a few pictures to help you catch the spirit that we hope to evoke in the documentary.
This rhinoceros on exhibit in the Paris Museum was reconstructed from fossils sent to Marcelin Boule by Teilhard during his first China expedition in 1923-24. He wrote Boule from the field that he had “15 cases already (skeletons, or parts of them), a huge number of rhinoceros and gazelle, a fair amount of bison (with enormous horns), deer with curious antlers, horse, wild ass, a lamella of elephant’s tooth (mammoth?), hyena and wolf.”
This is the exact furniture that was in the museum offices in 1920. It’s easy to picture Teilhard sitting on the edge of this table, as described by his friend Pierre Leroy, remembering the first time he met Teilhard. “I see him still – a tall man in a black suit and a Roman collar, sitting (since he had given me the only chair in the room) casually on the side of his worktable, playing with a piece of chalk. Under his graying hair, his forehead was clear and high, his face deeply etched by sea and desert winds. What struck me most about him at the time was his striking air of something I can only call goodness — a balance of simplicity and courtesy, betraying something of his aristocratic birth — which graced his every move.”
And here’s a crocodile fossil lying on a work table Teilhard probably worked at, waiting to be processed.
Courtyard of the Institut Catholique seen from the corridor outside the library. This was the view Teilhard saw every day looking over the roofs of Paris.
Genevieve Patte, God-daughter of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
A special bonus for us while setting up our shoot in Paris was meeting Genevieve Patte, pictured here, whose Godfather was Teilhard de Chardin. Her father was a fellow geology student with Teilhard. When Genevieve was born in 1936, Teilhard was visiting Paris and willingly acceded to her father’s request to become her baptismal sponsor. As Genevieve told us, “I never met Teilhard, but his signature is on my baptismal certificate.”