Treasures spanning thousands of years of Paris history will get a fresh airing in the city from next week, with pistols from the French revolution showcased alongside a shoe thought to have been lost in flight by guillotined queen Marie Antoinette.
Long a hit with tourists as an introduction to Paris and its tumultuous past, the Carnavalet museum is due to reopen after four years of renovations at a time when international travel is still largely on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Director Valerie Guillaume told Reuters the museum, run by the City of Paris, expected to quickly bounce back to pre-COVID 19 patterns once restrictions eased, with foreign visitors making up about half the public.
The 58 million euros ($71 million) revamp involved an extension of the exhibition space, including by opening up underground vaults. The building, in the Marais district, dates back to the 16th century and became a museum in 1880.
It will now house 625 000 works – many brought out of storage for the first time – and which include paintings, toiletry cases and tea sets used by Napoleon, early photos of the Eiffel Tower, and gold coins from the 2nd century B.C.
Other star attractions include a canoe from the Neolothic age and 12th century gargoyle from Notre-Dame cathedral.
Visitors can also wander through a reconstruction of writer Marcel Proust’s bedroom, with his real furniture and his coat on display.
Many museums in France began to reopen on May 19 after remaining under lock and key since last October due to the pandemic, forcing some exhibits to close early.
The Carnavalet also hopes to retain its appeal for locals.
“It’s the home of Parisians,” said architect Francois Roussillon, who conceived the overhaul. “It’s a museum you can live in, a bit like dropping in on a friend for diner. You can go one day and eat this, go back and eat that.”