Visiting the Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris

One of the things I love about Paris is that the city is home to so many incredible museums.  Beyond it’s “big three” – the Louvre, Orsay and Pompidou Center – you’ll find countless other hidden gems throughout the city ranging from the Cité de l’Architecture focusing on French architecture and national monuments to the Rodin Museum dedicated to the iconic sculptor of “The Thinker”.

The Musée des Arts et Métiers is another example of Paris’ more under the radar museums and is perfect for anyone who has ever wondered how an everyday object or concept came to be.  While its name translates to the museum of “arts and crafts”, what you’ll find is not what today’s definition implies.  Rather it refers to the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, which was founded in 1794 as a repository of scientific instruments and inventions.  In fact, it’s the oldest technical and industrial design museum in the world with nearly 80,000 objects and 15,000 drawings in its collection.

The museum is divided into seven thematic sections – Scientific Instruments, Materials, Construction, Communication, Energy, Mechanics and Transport – the latter featuring automobiles and planes beautifully displayed in a former church.

As you wander through the Musée des Arts et Métiers you’ll be reminded of how many things in our daily lives we take for granted, like weights and measures (from meters to liters and everything in between), how bridges are built or the evolution satellite technology – brought to life through artifacts, scale models and interactive exhibits.  For me the museum captures the genius of man from generations past, fueled by curiosity and a desire to push boundaries or simply to make something better.  After more than 2 hours wandering through the halls of this fascinating and unexpected museum, I left wondering where the minds of innovators and inventors will take us next.

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