Monday, August 13, 2012

Musée des Arts et Métiers (Paris Museum Field Trip for English Speaking Students)


In preparation for our visit to the Musée des arts et Métiers (Technology Museum), let's review some basic information as well as information on important piece we will be seeing in the exhibit.


Located in the former Saint-Martin-des-Champs abbey, the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers was, interestingly enough, created during the French Revolution, when many of France's treasures were being destroyed. The museum was completely renovated in 2000, it is now a museum dedicated to human genius. 

The permanent collection has 7 areas of study: 
  1. Scientific instruments
  2. Materials
  3. Construction
  4. Communication
  5. Energy
  6. Mechanics
  7. Transportation
We will also see the Statue of Liberty model and, as we discussed, an original version of a Foucault pendulum. 

The original Foucault pendulum was in the dome of the Panthéon in Paris, but was moved to the Arts et Métiers in 1855. During the museum reconstruction in the 1990s, the original pendulum was displayed at the Panthéon (1995), but was later returned for the 2000 opening. Unfortunately, on April 6th, 2010, the cable suspending the bob in the Musée des Arts et Métiers snapped, causing irreparable damage to the pendulum and to the marble flooring of the museum. 

An exact copy of the original pendulum has been swinging permanently since 1995 under the dome of the Panthéon. 

First off, let's look at the famous 

Foucault Pendulum


(By the way, when you start a pendulum, you don't want to let it go with your hands. This might change the trajectory slightly. The best way to start a pendulum is to suspend the bob with a string and then light a candle so that when the string breaks, the pendulum releases without movement bias). 

As you go through the series on WHY a pendulum is scientifically important....

You learned a little more about inertia (objects in motion, etc.), measuring "g" (or "g" force, as it's commonly described), experiments that were conducted to prove that the earth was not flat and was rotating. This leads us to Jean Bernard Leon Foucault and his pendulum demonstration at the Paris Observatory. 

When you get to the page on how the FOUCAULT PENDULUM works click on the times from 10am - 4pm, so that you can see the differences in time. 

When we go to the museum, we'll determine the time by the position of the pendulum. 

Make a note of the wire used to attach the bob. It is a flexible steel aircraft control cable. When we're at the museum we can find out how long of a wire it is... (I would imagine at least 30 feet long) so that we perform a few mathematical equations. Feel free to bring your calculator in your backpack for this activity. 

Since air resistance is an issue in museums, most pendulums need some sort of electromagnetic magnet or device to keep the pendulum going. 

Keep a look out for the IRON COLLAR and make sure you understand in the link above how the collar works to minimize air resistance. 

The forces acting on the pendulum are: 

  1. Inertia/Gravity
  2. Air Resistance
  3. Air Currents
Be prepared to answer the following question: 

  1. How do you know that the earth is rotating? 

    • Explain it in scientific terms utilizing the principles you learned about in the virtual demonstration. 

We have a catalog from the museum in English. Choose one item from the catalog that interests you and be prepared to educate the group. The catalog may not have enough information on your object of interest, in this event, do a little research prior to the visit. 

In addition to the group discussion on the Foucault pendulum, other planned discussions and activities will take place at the museum. See your teacher for more information.

Be sure to pack your notebook, camera, water bottle, a snack lunch, and a drawing pad for planned activities. 


  1. I pondered to myself recently what were the most important things in my life. The answer seems to be clear that art was up there in importance. Why? Frankly, I don't really know. May be someone here can enlighten me?
    As was my wont when I have some free time, I browsed the marvelous site,, where they keep thousands of digital images for customers to select to have printed into handsome canvas prints for their homes.
    This image jumped out to jolt my reveries: Still life with bread, by the Cubist Georges Braque. Is art like this picture, as essential as bread and water, or should I say bread and wine?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I have, myself, pondered similar questions, Scott, with varying answers depending upon my 'mood' and surroundings.

      The specific questions you ask unasked warrant further consideration on my part... for now, I'll go with bread and wine - while noting that the Braque family, whose influence dates back to the XIIIth century, is still traceable in Paris' 3eme arrondissement.