I have been to so many Natural History Museums that I like to think I’ve seen it all. From stuffed elephants to giant whale dioramas, I was sure there was nothing more that I could experience from another one of these museums. That was, of course, before I went to the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris.
Where do I even begin to describe this beautiful place? For starters, the museum is steeped in history, having been founded during the French Revolution. But, its origins were earlier than that as a garden for medicinal plants for Louis XIII. While there are many specialized buildings in this museum (some of which I’ll be sharing soon), the most magical is easily the Grand Gallery of Evolution, or as the French call it: La Grande Galerie de l’Évolution.
Closed in 1966 until its grand reopening in 1994, the Gallery is a breathtaking space of both historic architecture and naturalist exhibitions. The three-storied open hall showcases a dramatic design that sent me back a few eras. A colored glass ceiling projects atmospheric light which changes throughout your visit, and all along the walls are displays to marvel the mind.
I have never seen such incredible taxidermy. And I am not someone who even likes that sort of thing! But as we walked along the catwalks, each corner would reveal an animal that looked like it was pausing for a photo. I nearly jumped when I turned around suddenly after shooting a photograph, and a donkey stared back at me, alive…except not.
And my favorite section, though melancholy and serene, was the Hall of Extinct Animals.
The quiet room was empty and dark (to protect the specimens). I had never seen a Dodo bird in person, and seeing one up close, in such lifelike conditions made me care all the more about conservation. And as I read about extinct horses, the Tasmanian tiger, and other creatures our planet has lost, I ached to do more to keep these beautiful animals safe and thriving.
We enjoyed our last wanderings around this beautiful museum, avoiding the rain and taking photos of and amid the colorful displays.
Oh, what a special place!
To check out more about the museum, visit their website here. And have you ever been to the Natural History Museum in Paris, or the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution? How about the museums in New York, Los Angeles or London? Share your favorite exhibits in the comments below! And to see other posts from Paris, click here or here!