Musee des Arts et Métiers in Paris: A Complete Guide

The City's Old-World Science and Industry Museum

Foucault's Pendulum at the Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris.
••• A demonstration of Foucault's Pendulum at the museum. ©Musée des arts et métiers-Cnam, Paris/photo by M. Favareille

First established in the late 18th century by the Abbot Henri Grégoire as a conservatory designed to highlight industrial innovation and development, the Musee des Arts et Métiers opened its doors as a public museum in 1802. This often-overlooked but fascinating Parisian institution will regale any visitor who harbors interests in the history of science, engineering, technological development or inventions.

The museum, which has undergone intensive renovations in recent years, traces the history of important inventions and technological developments from the Antiquity to the present day. Over 80,000 objects and artifacts and some 20,000 technical drawings make up the permanent collection, divided across seven main thematic areas: industrial materials, construction, communication, scientific instruments, mechanics, energy, and transportation.

A few highlights at the Arts et Metiers include the first model for an airplane by the little-known but important inventor Clément Ader, the first calculator by Blaise Pascal, or the Lumiere Brothers' first stab at a film camera. Housed in a gorgeous 11th century church, La collégiale Saint-Martin-des-Champs, the museum is also home to the famed "Foucault's Pendulum", which has garnered special attention since the publication of Italian novelist Umberto Eco's eponymous novel.

Pay a visit to this under-appreciated gem as a stopover to or from attractions in the center of the city: it's conveniently located, and highly recommended (I myself have come several times to admire the collections and marvel in the inventions).

Location and Contact Information:

The museum is located in the central 3rd arrondissement (district) of Paris, in close reach of attractions and areas such as the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Marais district.

Address:
60 Rue Reaumur
Metro: Arts et Metiers or Reaumur-Sebastopol
Tel : +33 (0)1 53 01 82 00

Visit the official website (only some information is available in English)

Opening Hours and Tickets:

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm (open until 9:30 pm on Thursday evenings). Night Thursday to 9pm30. Closed Mondays. Open on most French bank holidays, excepting the 1st of May and 25th of December (Christmas Day).

Tickets: See here for current information and admission prices for the museum.

The Paris Museum Pass covers admission to this museum. (Buy Direct at Rail Europe)

Sights and Attractions Nearby:

Highlights of the Permanent Collection:

The permanent collection at the Musee des Arts et Metiers is divided across seven main areas, as previously mentioned. Each section brings you through a chronological exploration of how each area of technology evolved over hundreds of years of trial and error and innovation.

Scientific Instruments

In this section of the museum, you'll learn about the history of scientific instruments, pre-1750 to the present.

From the abacus to the sun-dial, the early microscope to rudimentary multiplication machines, this sections shows the evolution over hundreds of years of instruments that today have gained exponentially in sophistication and precision.

Materials

This section highlights the development of industrial materials and machinery, from glass to silk, textiles, iron or steel. The development of hydraulics and steam are a watershed moment in industrial manufacturing, leading to the explosion of commerce and exchange of goods at a new scale in the Industrial Revolution. The development of new materials, such as plastic and aluminum, leads to more and more sophisticated techniques and unprecedented choices for manufacturers.

Construction

This one's for anyone interested in the history of architecture: learn about how techniques for erecting buildings and other structures have evolved over centuries past.

Mechanization changes construction forever starting with the Industrial Revolution, leading not only to faster construction, but new materials and wildly imagined, futuristic structures.

Communication

In this fascinating section, the history of communications, from the telephone to the telegraph and the radio, are highlighted. The visit begins with a close look at one of the first printing presses, dating to the 15th century.

Energy

From hydraulic windmills to steam, electricity, or nuclear energy, this section offers a pointed look at the evolution of energy sources and technologies.

Mechanics

Take a closer look at the development of machinery in this section, observing how machines were initially developed for only a select number of activities and industries, before being adopted in virtually every domain of human activity starting from the 19th century, when mechanization exploded.

Transportation

This is one of the most popular sections of the museum, and features models for some of the first airplanes ever imagined, vintage cars, wheels, train cars, and other artifacts displaying the exciting development of transportation methods across the centuries.

Temporary Exhibitions

Temporary exhibitions at the museum tend to focus on one area or historical period of technological development, highlighting specific artifacts in the museum's permanent collection or bringing in objects from the collections of other museums. Recent temporary exhibitions included a look at the history of robotics and the invention of radio. See this page for more information.

Like This? 

Especially if you have kids, consider visiting the ultramodern Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie, a contemporary science and industry museum located in the city's far northeast.