From The Louvre to the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris certainly isn’t short on museums and art galleries, though one often overlooked by the typical tourist is le Musée des Arts et Métiers, an eclectic collection of machines, tools and instruments that capture European inventiveness across five centuries.
Situated within a former medieval monastery in the centre of Paris, the museum, which translates as the Museum of Arts and Crafts, was first founded in 1794, during the French Revolution, and is recognised as the world’s oldest museum dedicated to science and technology.
The museum was originally created in order to educate craftsmen, scientists and inventors about the work of their peers, as, according to its founder Henri Grégoire, the typical artisan’s knowledge was only limited to what lay within their own workshop.
Since its institution over two centuries ago, the museum now has a substantial collection of over 80,000 objects and over 20,000 drawings, featuring many fascinating curiosities, including Blaise Pascal’s 17th century adding machine and the first ever airplane to cross the English Channel, created by Louis Blériot. Approximately 3000 of these objects are currently on display, divided into various sections including science, mechanics, communications and transport. Especially interesting are the displays of manufacturing techniques, which are accompanied by the items crafted by them. From finely etched glassware and carefully painted porcelain, each is a decorative item which wouldn’t look out of place in an arts museum.
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Image: Roi Boshi, available under Creative Commons