These four examples are all targeted to special interests but even the general tourist might find something new and intriguing during a visit.
Maison de Victor Hugo
One of the most delightful things about the Victor Hugo museum is that it is located in one of my personal favorite of Parisian spots, the Place des Vosges. Pick up your baguette and cheese or some other delightful delicacy from the boulangerie and enjoy a picnic lunch on the grounds before visiting this small and fascinating museum, one of the former homes of Victor Hugo, whose works include "Les Misserables" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
The museum combines both the characteristics of a typical museum -- exhibits of letters, paintings and books, all telling a story of the writer -- with his rooms and furnishings. Along the way, with the well-written audio tour, one learns about his personal life as husband, father, lover and statesman.
Certainly the fact that his funeral brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets indicates his popularity at the time. That popularity has lingered on stages and film screens around the world.
Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme (Museum of Art and of Jewish History)
This small museum is located in the Marais, about eight blocks north of BHV and Hotel deVille on Rue du Temple, just past Rue Rambuteau. No photos were allowed within, which is a pity because both the exhibition on the day of my visit and the permanent collection were fascinating.
Included you will find not only the scheduled special exhibit but items and artifacts pertaining to the lives of Jews in Paris throughout the city's history and the history of Jewish communities in France, Europe and North Africa. Included is work by Chagall and Modigliani and the archives of the Dreyfus affair. I found particularly poignant an exterior wall of names from those who were victims of the Holocaust.
Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra National de Paris (Opera Garnier)
Many visit the Paris Opera to walk down its grand staircases and see the magnificent auditorium with its Chagall ceiling. Of course, this is a wonderful experience but for the opera and ballet fan, the museum itself is a lovely treat.
This includes the library and archives of the Paris opera along with numerous related museum exhibits and paintings related to the topic. You'll see costumes, scene design models and renderings, books and musical scores. (Check with the library about access to these materials on days when the museum is closed). Special exhibits may highlight a special occasion or composer. (An exhibit about Jules Massinet was featured during our visit.)
Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation
This fourth is not really a museum, but it is a powerful place to visit to those who feel a strong connection to the Holocaust. It is a memorial, a place of contemplation, of memory.
Located behind Notre Dame, underground on the Seine, this is a memorial to the 200,000 people who were deported from Vichy to concentration camps during World War II. Stark, simple, poignant, it is a compelling reminder of the damage to humanity when a dictator or political group feels that a civilization and group of people must be eliminated, simply for who they are and what they believe. (If one is looking at the east end of Ile de la Citie from the Seine, you will see a small, barred window on the point of the island. This is the only light from outside that enters the memorial.)
Narrow and claustrophobic, the memorial includes inscriptions as well as ashes from the crematoriums. The crystal room (you view it from the end) has 200,000 lighted crystals for those deported from France in World War II. It is not everyone's cup of tea. But I found it incredibly moving.
And, given the state of things in the Middle East these days, it may well hit all too close to home.
There are many other small museums in this remarkable city. They highlight specific artists, dolls and toys, arts and crafts, advertising -- there might be a museum for any topic! Check to see if the ones you want to visit are included on the museum pass for discounts and by-passing lines.
This post is part of "Paris In July." For more posts related to books, travel, movies and more from France, visit THIS LINK.
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