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Eureka! If you’re passionate about mechanics, technology, and inventions of all shapes and sizes, the Musée des Arts et Métiers is a must-see while you’re in Paris. Retracing the past 200 years in scientific and technological advances, this museum is any engineer’s dream.
Founded in 1794, just after the French Revolution, the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Trades) amassed all sorts of inventions in order to train technicians and engineers. Although the conservatory has shifted its focus to continuing education, its museum continues to preserve and display machines, models, and drawings collected from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Housed in a magnificent medieval monastery, the Musée des arts et métiers has an astonishing number of items in its “Industrial Portfolio.” Visitors to the museum’s galleries get just a small taste, as only some 2,500 objects are on display out of a collection that counts over 80,000 items.
Science lovers, car enthusiasts, and those that are simply curious about everyday life in the 1800 and 1900s could easily spend a few hours here. Alongside antique automobiles (including a steam-powered 1771 Fardier de Cugnot and one of the first gas engine cars, the 1896 Panhard & Levassor P2D), you’ll find Alexander Graham Bell telephones, a 1970s electron microscope, and a prototype of the kilogram.
While the bright and open corridors are full of interesting items, the former church Saint-Martin-des-Champs is sure to be the highlight of your visit. Models of the first airplanes hang from the high, vaulted ceilings as an original model of the Statue of Liberty stands below. Foucault’s pendulum famously oscillates within this beautifully-lit architectural gem, proving every day that the Earth does indeed turn on its axis.