Grande Galerie de l’Évolution

So after a slight hiatus following an incredibly busy week for me, I am returning to France. Sadly, I’m not actually physically going back to France, but my blog is. I’ve got so much still to share from my year away that I haven’t got round to yet, so there’s lots to look forward too!

This time, it’s the Grande Galerie de l’Évolution! I’m lumping this in with one other museum around the Jardin des Plantes, so there’s a bit of variety in this one! The Grande Galerie is home to a huge collection of taxidermied animals from all corners of the world. I’ve never really seen anything quite like it! The collection is split over four floors, starting with underwater/marine life, and a massive whale skeleton.

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As opposed to the Natural History Museum in London, the Muséun National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris is spread over a collection of museums surrounding the Jardin des Plantes, with each specialising in certain areas. The Grande Galerie was inaugurated in 1889 as the Galerie de Zoologie, built by Jules André. It housed millions of specimens gathered through the year by French naturalists. In the 1960s, the museum had deteriorated to a point where it was no longer able to stay open. It closed officially in 1965. In the 1980s, the Galerie was renovated, and finally in 1994, it was reopened by the Président.

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Now, just in this one (relatively small) museum, there are 7000 specimens on show. A handful of them were also part of the original collection from the old Galerie de Zoologie! It is quite staggering, and what I really love is that occasionally, the lighting changes and ‘thunderstorm’ noises are projected through the museum as well as animal noises. It gave me some Rainforest Café vibes.

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The second museum we visited was the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie Comparée (Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy) which was by far my favourite! It’s tucked away at the eastern end of the Jardin des Plantes, and is still part of the MNHM, so it was free for me to visit. The long and short of it is that it is two floors of bones and animal body parts. I know it sounds creepy as anything, but it is truly fascinating.

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It is split into two parts, one consisting of animals that are still around today, and then there’s the prehistoric bones, and I love a good dinosaur exhibit. The 650-ish skeletons in this museum have been used for years by actual paleontologists and biologists to develop their disciplines; it is full-on scientific history. Some of them belonged to French royalty too, such as Louis XV’s rhinoceros skeleton.

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You can spend a whole day hopping from one museum to another around the Jardin des Plantes, and I really recommend that you do. Rain or shine, it’s a great way to spend the day.

I’m starting to feel a mixture of nostalgia and sadness writing up these posts about France while I’m sitting here back in England, but rest assured, I’ll be back someday! As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I still have a lot of French adventures to get blogging about, so stay tuned!

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