Museum of Arts and Crafts is an industrial design museum in Paris that houses the collection of the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers, which was founded in 1794 as a repository for the preservation of scientific instruments and inventions. Considered one of the oldest technical and industrial museums in the world, the history of the Museum of Arts and Crafts is thus intimately linked to that of the Cnam, of which it has been an inseparable component since its creation more than 200 years ago.
The Musée des Arts et Métiers is a science and technology museum, part of the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. Founded in 1794, the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts was originally an establishment intended to train technicians and engineers using demonstrations based on scientific and technical objects. Its museum promote the spirit of creation, contribute to the dissemination of technological innovation and scientific knowledge to as many people as possible, preserves all the machines, models, drawings that were used throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
The National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts is a national public establishment of a scientific, cultural and professional nature, constituted as a “Grand Establishment”, under the supervision of the Ministry responsible for higher education and research, research and innovation. More specifically, it ensures lifelong higher education missions, research and dissemination of information and scientific and technical culture.
Since 1794, the collections have been enriched with many contributions, precious witnesses of the evolution of scientific knowledge and technical progress. Renovated in 2000, the Museum of Arts and Crafts now houses a remarkable reference collection of nearly 80,000 objects and 15,000 drawings. Organized into 7 sections – scientific instruments, materials, construction, communication, energy, mechanics and transport, the tour of the museum also allows you to discover one of the most atypical places: the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, consecrated in “temple” of technique by the French Revolution.
Among the most remarkable pieces, the enlightened amateur or not will be able to admire the physics cabinet of Jacques Alexandre Charles and the laboratory of Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier, the watch collection of Louis Ferdinand Berthoud, the weaving loom Jacques Vaucanson, the Chappe telegraph, the Cugnot truck or Clément Ader’s Plane No. 3.
The museum offers an important cultural program for a wide audience, in particular through its educational activities, conferences and temporary exhibitions. It has significant documentary resources in the fields of the history of techniques and industrial heritage. It leads the network of technical museums (RéMut), hosts the national mission for the preservation of contemporary scientific and technical heritage (Patstec) and participates in several research programs.
Labeled “Musée de France” in 2002, it is a state museum placed under the supervision of the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. It continues to enrich its collections, in particular with the National Mission for the Safeguarding of Contemporary Scientific and Technical Heritage, which has been entrusted to it since 2003 by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research.
In 1794, when the country was going through one of the most serious crises in its history, marked, internally, by a deadly civil war, and externally, by an armed conflict with the united European monarchies, several minds enlightened people militate to encourage the development of technical progress and industry.
Abbé Grégoire, won over to the ideas of the Revolution, thus proposed to the deputies of the National Convention the “means of perfecting national industry”: “The creation of a conservatory for arts and crafts, where all the tools and new machines invented and perfected, will arouse curiosity and interest, and you will see very rapid progress in all genres. ”
The Revolution assigns other deposits of invention to the Conservatory, in particular the former cabinet of machines of the Academy of Sciences (in the Louvre Palace), or the Hôtel d’Aiguillon, where certain collections of aristocratic origin are placed. or princely sequestration. From 1798, the Conservatory moved to the former priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, which it still occupies today, in what was at the time an industrial district of old Paris. A mechanical workshop, a draftsman’s office and a library were quickly established. The collections are classified in the galleries which opened their doors in 1802.
If the institution is designated as a “conservatory”, it is because it is intended to transmit know-how through demonstration (in this case by setting machines in motion). The “arts and crafts” designate the processes and techniques applied to industry. The Conservatory is open to craftsmen, foremen and skilled workers who can discover sophisticated machines there, coming from France or England. From the outset, the preferred means of transmitting knowledge and know-how was demonstration.
These collections are enriched, coordinated and purified every day; and if one sees, alongside new and perfected models, old and imperfect models, it is because the galleries of the Conservatoire are essentially intended to present, in material forms, the history of the arts, and to offer the consideration of artists the march and progress of inventions, as well as the various combinations of the wit, to solve the same problem of mechanics.
Throughout the 19th centurycentury, mindful of the organization of the galleries and their educational vocation, the administration of the Conservatory is particularly attentive to the quality and understanding of the models. She does not hesitate to intervene with manufacturers to demand a cross-section or cutaway, more conducive to explanation. We can thus come and see the considerable progress that industry experienced with the industrial revolution, first in agriculture and textiles, but also in mining, metallurgy, the arts of fire, railways then, in photography or even electricity.
Teaching by demonstration quickly showed its limits, and the Conservatory of Arts and Crafts underwent a major reform in 1819. Partial view of the large gallery on the first floor, during the reign of Louis-Philippe. Like so many witnesses of industrial progress, French or foreign models and designs line up there wisely. This engraving appeared in Le Magasin Pittoresque in 1843.
Dedicated to the promotion and support of industrial activity, the Conservatoire regularly enriches its collections. “Large” machines, but also many models, samples and manufactured products, drawings and photographs, constitute a reference collection. With a small footprint, easy to transport through the galleries, the models obviously have an educational role. Their setting in motion makes it possible to easily explain the mechanical or physical principle which governs the operation of the invention thus represented.
The universal exhibitions, which follow the exhibitions of the products of national industry, are as many opportunities to enrich the collections to illustrate the quality of production and manufacturing processes, both French and foreign. At the end of these events, the galleries of the museum receive many pieces, machines and models, but also specially executed drawings. In some cases, acquisitions reflect the most recent innovations; in others, on the contrary, old or even obsolete pieces are sought, so as to initiate or complete historical series.
It was in view of the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1855 that the establishment acquired an experimental mechanical laboratory, installed in the former church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs. Responding to its mission of expertise for public authorities and the industrial world, the Conservatory provides them with complete equipment (hydraulic machines, steam engines, measuring devices, etc.) to test products and processes. The laboratory, which had become obsolete and presented a danger to the premises, was finally dismantled in the early 1880s.
If the updating of the galleries, operated at the end of the 19th century, goes hand in hand with the creation of new teaching chairs, it is clear that in the 20th century, technical education becomes increasingly disconnected collections.
The Musée des Arts et Métiers remained the main “temple” of technology in France until the post-war period, when museums specializing in cinema, photography, railways, automobiles, mining, but also eco-museums and places of remembrance of industrial heritage. Baptized “national museum of techniques” by Maurice Daumas, its director in the 1960s and 1970s, it offers a contemporary approach to technical progress with regard to historical collections.
But the museography set up at that time has aged well, and an ambitious renovation program, defined by Pierre Piganiol and led by Dominique Ferriot, director between 1988 and 2000, is initiated as part of the bicentenary celebrations of the Conservatoire des arts et professions. The most spectacular element is the construction of reserves that meet the standards of preventive conservation, making the collections accessible to researchers and museum professionals. The spaces of the permanent exhibition have been restored, modernized and organized into seven thematic sections, offering a new reading of this unique heritage and the history of techniques.
Since its foundation, the museum has been housed in the deserted priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs, in the rue Réaumur in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. Nationalized in November 1789, this considerable architectural ensemble was assigned to the Conservatory in 1798. The museum occupies the main buildings where the monks of the former religious community were housed, as well as the former priory church.
The complex was extensively refurbished under the July Monarchy and the Second Empire, under the direction of the architect Léon Vaudoyer. A neo-Gothic decor adorns the nave and the choir of the old church. The museum underwent major renovation in 1990, includes an additional building adjacent to the abbey, with larger objects remaining in the abbey itself. The old buildings (prior to the 20th century) have been classified as historical monuments since March 15, 1993.
Founded in the 11th century on the site of a Merovingian funerary basilica, the collegiate church of Saint-Martin-des-Champs is a remarkable example of medieval architecture. The 12th century choir, with its double ambulatory flanked by seven chapels, is perhaps the first Parisian building where the warhead appears.
In the nave restored in the 19th century by Léon Vaudoyer, are the objects that have made the church a Pantheon of techniques: Scott’s steam engine, Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, the first steam bus “l’Obéissante” by Amédée Bollée, planes by Breguet and Blériot and the model of the Vulcain engine of the Ariane rocket.
The echo room
Between two major witnesses to the history of transport, Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot’s truck (considered the first automobile) and Clément Ader’s plane No. 3, suspended above the museum’s monumental staircase, the room de l’écho offers a reception area that is both warm and unusual. Indeed, if you stand in one of the corners of the room and whisper, the person in the diametrically opposite corner hears this whisper as well as if he were right next to it.
The conference room
The conference room of the Museum of Arts and Crafts receives your symposiums, meetings, conferences or general assemblies. Modular, it is equipped with a grandstand table, a large screen, a video projector, a sound system (table microphone and mobile microphone) as well as an Internet connection.
The museum has over 80,000 objects and 15,000 drawings in its collection, of which about 2,500 are on display in Paris. The museum presents seven different collections: Scientific Instruments, Materials, Energy, Mechanics, Construction, Communication, Transportation. In the former church of St-Martin-des-Champs Priory are displayed cars, planes, the Foucault Pendulum and some other monumental objects.
The rest of the collection is preserved in a storehouse in Saint-Denis. Among its collection is an original version of the Foucault pendulum, the original model of Liberty Enlightening the World (commonly known as the Statue of Liberty) by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, some of the first planes (Clément Ader’s Avion III, Louis Blériot’s Blériot XI…), and Blaise Pascal’s Pascaline (the first mechanical calculator).
Scientific instruments: key objects
Like all other professions, those of science require tools to measure, inform, experiment. The Musée des Arts et Métiers shows us, through collections dating back to the 15th century, the constant contributions of technicians and instrument builders to the development and transmission of scientific knowledge.
Materials: key objects
There is no field that is both more current and older than that of materials. From the ceramists of the Neolithic period to the steelmakers of today, the arts of fire as well as the work of natural materials such as wood or textile fibers have occupied an essential place in human activities. The museum presents both the production methods and the finished products, linking art to technique.
Construction: key objects
The explosion of the metallurgical industry in the 19th century, then that of concrete from the Belle Époque, upset traditional architecture, leading to profound changes in the art of construction. The museum’s collections show us behind the scenes, from the techniques of the builders (scaffolding, stone cutting, etc.) to public works (bridges, tunnels, etc.) and the mines.
Communication: key objects
With the printing press, men were finally able to engrave their thought in stone or wood, and distribute it to the four cardinal points. But to reproduce the image, sound or movement, it took a lot of time, trial and failure. By discovering the achievements of jugglers like Robertson or researchers like Bell, we discover the astonishing diversity of the history of communication, up to the Internet.
Energy: key objects
The three great steps taken by men in the history of energy, since the Middle Ages, are widely represented in the collections of the Musée des Arts et Métiers: the advent of the water mill by very varied models of water wheels, that of the steam engine by numerous models and original objects, electricity finally by the most important stages of its development for two hundred years.
Mechanics: key objects
The Conservatory of Arts and Crafts is contemporary with the steam engine and industrial machine tools. Mechanics therefore represents, from the very beginning of the institution, an essential field of research and innovation. From the potter’s wheel to clocks, from automatons to agricultural machinery, mechanics irrigate all of man’s productive activities.
Theater of Automatons: Key Objects
At the end of the 19th century, the toy, clock and music box industries came together. Unusual beings then see the light of day: automatons made of cardboard, wood, porcelain and steel enchant bourgeois salons and the windows of department stores.
Transport: key objects
A few millennia separate us from the first sailing boats, primitive animal-drawn carts. However, hardly more than two hundred years ago, with the steam engine, the first motor vehicles appeared. All the essential stages of this transport revolution, the Museum of Arts and Crafts presents them to us, on land, at sea and in the air.
The permanent exhibition of the Musée des Arts et Métiers is organized into seven thematic collections themselves subdivided into four chronological periods (before 1750, 1750-1850, 1850-1950, after 1950): scientific instruments, materials, construction, communication, energy, mechanics and transport. Additional presentations insist on particular points: the laboratory of Lavoisier, the theater of the automatons, the models of teaching of Mrs. de Genlis. The old church presents, among other things, the experiment of the rotation of the Earth using Foucault’s Pendulum.
Scientific instruments are represented by the collections of the physics cabinets of Jacques Charles or Abbé Nollet, to which are added the laboratory of Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier, the calculating machines of Blaise Pascal, the precision clocks of Ferdinand Berthoud, the instruments used by Léon Foucault to measure the speed of light, Frédéric Joliot-Curie ‘s cyclotron at the Collège de France and several objects illustrating the progress of robotics.
The techniques of construction and manufacture of materials are represented by the manufacture of textiles, from Vaucanson to the mechanization of the end of the 19th century via Jacquard, the arts of fire (glassware by Émile Gallé and ceramics from the Manufacture de Sèvres and Murano glassworks), the development of metallurgy, the development of large-scale production processes (such as electroplating), the development of synthetic materials, etc. The mechanical and automation elements are presented in showcases 19th century _ century. On the construction side, we find tools (carpenter, mason, stonemason) and architectural models (wooden structures, metal trusses, civil buildings, bridges)… The evolution of energy is presented by the Marly machine, Watt ‘s machine, Volta ‘s pile and the first heat engines, diesel and nuclear.
The evolution of transport and communications is exposed with vehicles ranging from Joseph Cugnot ‘s flatbed truck to the Ford T, from Stephenson ‘s locomotive to the TGV, but also with the hand press and satellites, with the development of the mass printing, radio and television, photography and cinematography, mobile telephony or the Internet.
The 1/4 hour not chiantifique
Notice to followers of the polite quarter of an hour, envious of Warhol’s quarter of an hour of fame or nostalgic for the American quarter of an hour! At the Musée des Arts et Métiers, the 1/4 hour is not “chiantific”. Challenge, watch in hand and live, we tell you everything…
The Cnum, the digital library in the history of science and technology of the Cnam, promotes a historical fund specializing in the history of technology. A search engine allows you to find digitized works according to the following twelve themes: Catalogs of manufacturers, Construction, Energy, Universal exhibitions, Scientific generalities and popularization, History of Cnam, Machines and scientific instrumentation, Information and communication technologies. communication, Transport, Materials, Economy and work, Treasures and unica.
Regularly updated, the catalog of the collections of the Musée des Arts et Métiers gives you access to more than 70,000 records in just a few clicks. Click on “Search in the catalogue” to access all the collections, “Parcours dans le musée” to discover the key objects in the permanent exhibition, or even “Portfolios” to navigate within thematic selections that testify to the richness and diversity of the museum’s collections.
The documentation center provides you with a general fund, a youth fund and a heritage fund that document the collections. The resources offered are suitable for all levels, from popularization to the most in-depth study in the field of the history of science and technology.
Most of the work of conservation of the works – inventory, study, research, restoration – is carried out in the reserves. Hardly visible, this intense activity contributes to enriching the knowledge of the collections and ensures the conservation, for future generations, of a unique heritage.
The renovation of the Musée des Arts et Métiers, carried out between 1992 and 2000, required the construction of new reserves as a prerequisite, meeting specific requirements in terms of security, storage, conservation, treatment and operation. A vast building, the work of architect François Deslaugiers, was built between 1993 and 1994 in Saint-Denis. After an extravagant move, the collections were able to take place in premises much better suited than the old attics, cellars and cupboards on rue Saint-Martin.
This new storage area offers the opportunity to study and enhance whole sections of collections that were difficult to access until now. For more than ten years, the museum has been rediscovering them through systematic and rigorous work, led by a multidisciplinary team.