mon musée préféré à Paris

all photos by megan gilbert 2009-10

Of all the museums in Paris my favorite is the Galerie de paléontologie et d’anatomie comparée  at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle. It is located in the Jardin des Plantes just across from the Mosque in the 5th arrondissement.

The garden was formally founded in June of 1793, during the French Revolution. Its origins lie, however, in the Jardin royal des plantes médicinales (Royal Medicinal Plant Garden) created by King Louis XIII in 1635. Ran by leading naturalists of the Enlightenment, the museum’s aims were to instruct the public, put together collections and conduct scientific research.

The remarkable Gallery building, designed by the architect Frederic Dutert consists of two floors and its surface area is approximately 2,500 square meters. The largest gallery, made of stone and metal, is almost 80 meters long, the facades are decorated with sculptures inspired by naturalists and large windows afford abundant natural light.

The collections derive from the great expeditions of the traveler-naturalists of the 18th and 19th centuries as well as from the ménagerie’ (zoo) of the Jardin des Plantes.

Upstairs, below the glass ceiling, they have a famous collection of fossil vertebrates (especially dinosaurs and other extinct animals) and of invertebrates.

Downstairs there are nearly a thousand skeletons of various mammals (humans, whales, elephants, etc.) as well as glass cabinets lined with glass jars filled with formaldehyde oddities referred to as “Monstres Simples” (my personal favorite: a cycloptic kitty).

 

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