Sunday, 13 September 2009

Journées du Patrimoine: My Recommendations

Next weekend sees the annual 'heritage days' in France when many secretive institutions throw their doors wide open to the curious eyes of the public. Well, this is the official line, but in reality it often seems to be simply a choice between waiting for hours to visit an official building or just having the opportunity to visit a museum without paying for once. However, it would be a shame to view it this way as there are several places that are offering something unique next weekend. Here is my selection, including several buildings that I have already previously mentioned on Invisible Paris. This is your chance (and mine!) to see them more closely:

Maison d'Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte's house is kept as a museum, but it is generally only open for two hours each week, and that at a time when I'm working! Weekend openings are very rare, so here is an opportunity to view the unchanged apartment of the philosopher/sociologist. You can also view his library and several of his manuscripts, and at certain times during the weekend there will be guided tours. If you want to know more about Comte, click on the link above.

10, Rue Monsieur le Prince - 75006 Paris
Saturday-Sunday 10h-13h and 14h-17h

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Consolation - Mémorial du Bazar de la Charité

Built on the spot of a terrible fire that cost the lives of over 150 members of the aristocracy (with around 95% of the victims being female), this chapel is always open to the public daily. What is more rarely seen though is the memorial section at the rear which explains the tragedy in more detail and celebrates the lives of the victims.

Rue Jean-Goujon, 75008
Saturday - Sunday 14:00 to 17:30

Hôpital Saint-Louis
Being one of the oldest in Paris and similar in style to the Place des Vosges, the hospital itself is always worthy of a visit. However, the true rarity this weekend is the opening of the famous Musée des moulages dermatologiques (Museum of dermatological masks) to the general public. It is one of the most secretive museums in Paris and is certainly not suitable for everybody, but if you have any interest in the subject the time to visit is now as it is generally only ever open for pre-arranged visits and then only to professionals or students in the subject. What is displayed in the museum? Several hundred moulds made from the faces of patients suffering from all possible skin diseases, created over one hundred years ago.

1 Avenue Claude-Vellefaux, 75010
Sunday from 14:00 to 18:00

Hôpital Salpetrière

Another hospital and another interesting event. I have written several times about this hospital and its links with the Charcot family, but normally it is Jean-Martin Charcot the father and neurologist to whom it is most closely associated. However, in an interesting twist for this weekend, the Charcot library (the collection of the father, given to the hospital by the son) will present several articles and archive documents on the time Jean-Baptiste Charcot (the son) spent at the hospital before changing tack and becoming a world-famous sailor and explorer. It will be an almost unique opportunity to see such information, but it should be noted that the hospital, particularly the chapel, is also a fascinating visit in itself.

91, Boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75013
Saturday, 10:30 to 17:00

Palais d'Iéna
Auguste Perret is an architect who fascinates me, and I previously wrote about him in connection with his design for the Mobilier National building. For the Journées du Patrimoine, it is his most well-known and well-respected building that will be open, the wonderful Palais d'Iéna. Following classical, academical principles, it is nevertheless resolutely modernist in design.
Once again, this is a rare opportunity to visit a building that is today used by the French Economic and Social Council.

9, Place d'Iéna - 75016 Paris
Saturday - Sunday, from 10:00 to 17:00

Moulin Rouge
This is not a place that I would normally recommend visiting to anybody, but I can't deny that it is a historical institution. It's difficult to resist the idea of visiting the private salons and backstage areas and wandering around amongst the costumes without being asked to pay 30 Euros for a glass of champagne. This is the first time it has ever been opened to the public for this event, so expect large queues!

82, Boulevard de Clichy, 75018
Saturday - Sunday, from 09:00 to 15:00

Siège du Parti communiste français

It has become something of a tradition for me to visit Oscar Niemeyer's fantastic 'siège du Parti Communiste' each year during this event. Living close by, I often see it from the exterior, but it is the interiors that are really worth investigating, particularly the space-age underground auditorium!

2, Place du Colonel-Fabien - 75019 Paris
Saturday - Sunday from 10:00 to 17:30


Starman said...

I agree about La Moulin Rouge. I have gone to see it, but I've never been inside.

CarolineLD said...

So tempting - such a shame that it's the same weekend as London Open House.

Adam said...

Hi Caroline: so is London Open House the UK version of this event? Has the UK finally adopted a French invention?

CarolineLD said...

It's certainly very similar, but I don't think they acknowledge any debt to France...

Starman said...

Adam, are you sure it's a French invention? According to the official Paris website information, it was initiated in 1991 by the EU commission. We've been having heritage days in the US for as long as I can remember, long before I moved to Florida in 1963.

Adam said...

Starman: I just assumed it was a French thing in a similar manner to the Fête de la Musique, but I know you should never just assume things! I've just checked now and it seems that the event was popularised by the EU in 1991, but it was based on a French idea from 1983.

However, as you say, there is nothing particularly new or original about open days or heritage days. What I'm trying to celebrate here though is original sites and unusual events, not just open doors.

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