Musee des Arts et Metiers museum in Paris

Founded back in the 1700s, this is the national French museum for science, technology and instruments from inventors and scientists in days gone by, including looms, clocks, planes, steam engines and much more.

A bit of history

The Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers was first founded back in 1794 by Father Gregory who wished to conserve unusual inventions and technical innovations, and it was installed in a former church called the Prieure Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory in 1798.
Musee des Arts et Metiers Ford Model T
The collections continued to grow over the years, and a library and reading room was put in place in 1851, which was in the area that was originally the dining hall for the monks, and the old church was designated home to big machines including those from agriculture, mills, and even flying machines.

However, the Musee des Arts et Metiers was closed for a period of time when major renovations took place, which started in the 1990s, and since its reopening in 2000, the impressive collection is now housed in separate areas and divided up into different themes.

And in recognition of the bi centenary of the Musee des Arts et Metiers, the Metro station Arts et Metiers stop on the line 11 platform was completely renovated and designed to be like a submarine and old mechanical works.

About Musee des Arts et Metiers and its Collections

This museum in Paris is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of scientific and industrial equipment from around the 1500s onwards, which has been recognised throughout the world from its humble beginnings after the French Revolution.
Its displays take you through innovations from different inventors, and there are approximately 3000 objects on permanent display at the Musee des Art et Metiers, which is sometimes referred to as the Musee National des Techniques or the Conservatoire National des Arts et metiers.

Yet the museum also holds temporary exhibitions, as they have over 80,000 different objects, drawings, photographs, models, etc within their inventory, plus the displays are now arranged by theme, to make it easier for the visitor.

The first theme relates to Scientific Instruments, and includes items such as the Foucault Pendulum and the original Pascal calculator dating from the 1600s, then you have a section relating to Material, with items such as a loom, even original models of the Statue of Liberty, etc.

Another theme of the Arts and Crafts Museum is called Construction, which relates to architecture and public works and has items like a scale model of an old excavator through to items used for constructing bridges, tunnels, etc.
Musee des Arts et Metiers plane
Musee des Arts et Metiers Paris
Then you have a section called Communication, which has an old printing press on display the Lumier brothers film prototypes, old cameras, an Edison phonograph and much more and the next themed displays relate to Mechanical and hold items such as clocks, potters wheels, agricultural machinery.

Another theme at the Musee des Arts et Metiers is called Energy and include models of a variety of water wheels, a model house that was used to test lighting and electricity, steam and even a James Watt steam engine.

Yet last but by no means least is the theme that relates to Transport.  Focusing on different forms of transport on land, sea and in the air, you can see an original Ford Model T from 1908, the Avion III, which was an early aeroplane by Clement Ader that looked more like a large bat, the Avion Bleriot, which was the first plane to cross the English Channel or even old bicycles.

Visiting Musee des Arts et Metiers in Paris

Musee des Arts et Metiers wooden frame model
You will find the Musee des Arts et Metiers in the 3rd Arrondissement and open from 10am through to 6pm on a Tuesday through to a Sunday.  However, on a Thursday there is late opening until 9.30pm, but it is always closed on a Monday, along with certain national French holidays such as 1st May and 25th December.

As of 2014 the cost of entry is €6.50 to visit the permanent collections or €7.50 for the whole museum including temporary exhibitions, but there is a reduced cost for those under the age of 18 and it is free for children under the age of 5.  Yet we would like to point out that it is completely free from 6pm until closing time on a Thursday evening.

Audio guides are available at a cost of €5 per device and these are available in different languages such as French, English, Spanish, Japanese, etc, and there are different courses you can follow which are colour coded depending upon how long you wish to be within the museum.

These audio guided tours range from an hour long tour with around 30 essential items through to the Freedom tour, which is the most comprehensive and there are 175 objects that have comments about them on the devices, which equates to over 6 hours of information.  But there is also an audio guide specifically designed for children aged around 7 upwards with a little robot that helps them discover some of the exhibits.
Musee des Arts et Metiers mechanical items
Musee des Arts et Metiers walkway
In addition to this, demonstrations are performed daily by museum staff, and these are free to attend once you have purchased your ticket, yet when you know the times, it is advisable to get to the demonstration early to get a good view, especially if it is a famous item such as the Foucault pendulum.

Now you may be pleased to know that access to the museum is suitable for the disabled and since the renovations there are also lifts in place, plus there are now two wheelchairs available at the Musee des Arts et Metiers for those that would have difficulty walking around.

There is also a cafe in Paris located within the museum right by the area dedicated to Steam, which is open at the same times as the museum for snacks, salads, coffees, etc.  However, on a Sunday, they offer a Brunch, which is served from 11.30am and is a cost of €21.50 including the cost of entry to the museum, and for reservations you would need to telephone +33 (0) 1 53 01 82 83.
Musee des Arts et Metiers printing press
And when it comes to getting here, as we have already mentioned, it is situated within the 3rd Arrondissement at the Square du General Morin, with part of the collection being in the historical Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory along with the newer building adjacent to this.

So, the nearest Metro station is the Arts et Metiers Metro stop via lines 3 or 11, but do not forget that platform 11 has been redesigned by the authority for transport in Paris in collaboration with the museum.

But the bus numbers 20, 38, 47 or 75 will also get you close by, and the Reaumur-Sebastopol Metro stop serving line 4 is also not far away.