The foundations for the abbey church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs
were laid around the time of the Norman conquest and then it got turned into a priory and
over the next few centuries there were additions and renovations and the building was home
to the Monks of Cluny during this time. But with the French Revolution, many of the
monks were beheaded and the abbey was deserted, yet the Abbot Henri Gregoire was saved
when he submitted proposals for a depository for machines, models, etc, which was named
the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers and created by decree in 1794 it officially opened
in the priory in 1802.
The museum is still situated in the original site in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris
France, but it also now includes another building adjacent, which hold numerous more
exhibits and a lot of the smaller ones.
Having had a complete refurbishment and renovation works undertaken during the 1990's the
Musée des Arts et Métiers is worth a visit just for the historical importance of the
building itself, but the make-over has brought it into the 21st century with touch
screens, yet still retaining the original character, with the wooden floors etc.
The museum has approximately 80,000 objects and technical documents, which detail
inventions from the 16th century up to present day in areas such as telecommunications,
mathematics, physics, optics, mechanics and so on, but there are only around 3,000 objects
on display at any one time.
However, the Musée des Arts et Métiers decided that their thousands of additional
articles can be available to scholars and qualified researchers to study, even when they
are not on display, and by appointment you can get to see these at their satellite
facility in the town of Saint-Denis, which is just outside the
City of Paris.
There are numerous fascinating pieces on display and probably the most prominent is
Foucault's original pendulum, which is suspended in the cupola of Saint Martin des Champs,
plus there are also items such as Pascal's adding machine, the Lavoisier laboratory
precision balance that dates back to the 1700's along with more recent items like a
formula one engine.
The permanent collection offers a journey through past and present techniques, plus you
can get to see numerous other exhibits like a statue of liberty model, a variety of
clocks, scientific instruments including even drift chambers and computers.
And there have been numerous inventions over the years that have completely changed the
way we live today, so if you want to be able to see some of these life-changing devices,
then this museum is an absolute must and probably one of the best places to visit, not
just in France but in our opinion throughout Europe, yet do allow a good few hours to
really appreciate this museum.
This is a great place to take all the family and the children will love it, but when you
need to rest your weary feet, there is a cafe and also a library that is open at the same
times as the museum. There is also a photography department, but this is only open
by appointment when prior arranged.
Everything is of course in French, so it is a very good idea to get an audio guide, which
is available in quite a few different languages including English, Spanish, German,
The Musée des Arts et Métiers is open from Tuesday through to Sunday from 10am to 6pm
but like many museums it is closed on a Monday and on national holidays. There is a
late evening every Thursday when the museum does not close until 9pm.
Address & Contact Details:
Musée des Arts et Métiers
60 Rue Réaumur
Telephone: 1 53 01 82 00
292 rue Saint-Martin
Cedex 03 - France