With over 80,000 objects in their collection, the Musée des Arts et Métiers is a pretty important one. It is an industrial design museum, which houses the collection of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers. The Conservatoire was founded back in 1794 with the task of preserving the most important scientific instruments and inventions. It is even thought to be one of the oldest technical and industrial museums in the world!
Now, normally, I wouldn’t choose to go to an industrial museum. I really like science and inventions, don’t get me wrong, but I wouldn’t choose to spend an afternoon in a museum about it. However! The Musée des Arts et Métiers was incredibly interesting, and had such a variety of pieces – I really recommend a trip!
The buildings themselves (except the one added in 1990) were all part of a priory of all things! It was the Priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, and part of the collection is housed in the actual chapel of this priory which is fantastic to see.
The museum’s collection is split into seven sections, covering areas such as construction, mechanics, energy, and more. It’s a toss-up between which sections I enjoyed the most; probably communication, but only by a whisker! Second then would be transportation.
The communication area covers everything from the advent of printing presses to telephones, and a huge array of cameras! It’s not only these six in the picture below I promise, but I felt a funny feeling taking photos of these turn-of-the-century cameras with my much more up-to-date Canon. Sort of like going back in time and meeting your great-great-grandparents. Strange in a good way!
Aside from the cameras and telephones, the museum actually houses some pretty landmark inventions, such as the Foucault Pendulum, which was created for experiments aiming to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth. The original pendulum was damaged when the cable holding the bob to the ceiling snapped in 2010. An exact copy of the pendulum can be seen in the Panthéon, which is where the experiments first took place.
The above picture shows the Pendulum in situ in the chapel, along with many of the cars and the plane that are also kept there. It’s a much more astonishing sight in person!
The cars are mostly seen on the multi-platform construction on the right hand side of the picture. There’s a lot of early-1900s touring cars that are great to look at, and if you return back to solid ground, there’s a cross-section of another early car – I’d be damned if I could tell you which one though.
They also have this: the Avion III, built by Clément Ader from 1892-97. He built this plane on behalf of the French War Office, who funded the project. It is an example of a primitive steam-powered airplane, with a wingspan of 16 metres. Its first flight attempt took place on 14th October 1897 where apparently it didn’t even make it off the ground, but still somehow crashed. Ader claimed it had flown 100m and had two witnesses to back him up. Even so, the War Office cut their funding and that was the end of that.
On the whole though, this is a really great museum, despite being one that I only visited on the off-chance. You don’t have to be super clued up on your GCSE scientific formulas or know anything about mechanics to appreciate the history and importance of the items in this collection. I’m sure it helps though!
To find out more about the museum, you can visit their website by clicking here. You can also subscribe to my blog to get updates every so often by heading over to the Subscribe page here – no spam, I promise!