I finally visited the Arts et Métiers Museum in Paris and I am so glad I did. I found the displays to be fascinating and it is certainly an overlooked museum that everyone raves about after they have finally visited it. Why so interesting? It’s the world of science in one museum: a mix of inventions, technology, engineering, and mathematics creatively put together.
Arts et Métiers Metro
It is fitting that the Paris Metro station that is located near the museum is not only called Arts et Métiers, but the interior has that “scientific” look as well. The design of the platform was redesigned in 1994 by Belgium comic book artist François Schuiten. It is like a submarine with portholes in brass.
History of the Arts et Métiers Museum
The Musée des Arts et Métiers literal translation is “Arts and Crafts Museum” but it is much more than that. The Conservatoire national des arts et métiers was founded in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, initially as a place to house scientific instruments, drawings, and inventions. It was refurbished in 2000 and today, 2400 of the 80,000 inventions are on display. They are housed in the Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory and categorized in seven areas: Energy, Communication, Transportation, Mechanics, Construction, Scientific Instruments, and Materials. Needless to say, the museum is quite large with so many items exhibited, including ones dated before 1750.
8 Interesting Exhibits At The Arts et Métiers Museum
This museum captures so many interests. Children will love all the hands-on activities (and workshops). Adults will appreciate seeing the evolution of bicycles, cars, communication, computers, and the multitude of inventions through time. Scientists will love the detail shown in the exhibits. You will not be bored as there is something for everyone on each of the three floors.
Some of the most impressive displays are in the former church on the ground floor, so begin there. Then proceed to the other rooms on first floor (communication, construction, energy, and mechanical innovations) and second floor (scientific instruments and materials). There are too many to write about in one post, so here are 8 that I found especially interesting:
1. Foucault’s Pendulum
One of the star attractions is Foucault’s Pendulum, named after French physicist Leon Foucault whose device showed Earth’s rotation around its axis. When it was first demonstrated in 1851, It only barely showed the rotation. It was repeated again in the Paris Observatory and finally, under orders from President Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, it was successfully demonstrated under the dome of the Pantheon on March 31 where the 62 pound bob was suspended by a 220 foot wire. It was a big success.
The pendulum went back and forth between the Conservatoire Arts et Metiers and the Pantheon during renovations and sadly, in 2010, the cable broke, breaking the bob. This original bob is not longer used. It is in a display case. A copy of the bob is in the Pantheon. Today there are exhibits of Foucault’s Pendulum throughout the world.
The following is a description of how the pendulum works.
2. Airplane Blériot XI Suspended In The Former Church
In 1909, Engineer Louis Blériot was the first person able to fly over the English Channel in the airplane that he had created. He flew from Calais, France and landed near Dover Castle. As a result, he won £1,000 from the Daily Mail’s competition.
3. Statue of Liberty
This scale plaster model (9.4 feet) of the famous Statue of Liberty was made in 1878 by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and was used in the creation of the Statue of Liberty that is in New York City.
4. First Electric Battery: The Column of Volta
In 1800 Italian physicist Alessandro Volta was able to demonstrate that electrical currents could run through zinc and copper discs. They were called the Voltaic pile and today are known as dry cells or batteries.
5. Gaumont Chronophone
Put a movie projector together with a phonograph (aka record player or sound machine for those who don’t know what record players are) and what do you get? A Chronophone, which is a device that provided sound for movies in the early 1900s. Along with the Lumière brothers, Leon Gaumont was instrumental in bringing motion pictures to the public.
One section of the museum explores the evolution of sound and cinema, with hands-on exhibits such as the Praxinoscope, which was invented in 1877 and has images and mirrors on the cylinder which create the illusion of movement as the cylinder spins.
7. Robot Lama
This was a prototype of the robot LAMA (Lavochkin Alcatel Model Autonomous), designed in Russia in the 1990s to aid in the exploration of Mars. It could move autonomously, without the aid of a human, over terrestrial surfaces.
The Telstar was launched in 1962 and provided transmission of television, radio, and telephone communications between North America and Europe.
Arts et Métiers Museum
- Admission: 8 € and free Thursday nights (6-9:30 pm) and the first Sunday of each month
- Address: 60 Rue Réaumur, 75003 Paris, France
- Metro: Arts et Métiers
If you’re interested in museums in Paris or you’re considering getting the Paris Museum Pass, here are some posts to help you out:
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