Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature — the Museum of Hunting and Nature
Oh man, I lived right down the street from this museum for two years but put off visiting it for the longest time because I had the impression it wouldn't be very interesting. Boy, was I wrong! Le Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature is easily in my top five favorite museums in Paris now. The picture I'd had in my head, which delayed my visiting the place, was of a small, musty, run-down, old-fashioned museum with maybe some faded old hunting uniforms and a couple moldy taxidermied foxes. But the place is actually completely fascinating, not to mention absolutely gorgeous; in some ways very traditional in its decor but very modern in its presentation, and in some places weirdly artsy or just downright strange! It's also quite a bit larger than I expected, with a few floors and many different rooms to explore.
Here are a bunch of pictures I took during my visit, which don't even begin to cover how extraordinary and intriguing this place is...
The museum space itself is amazing. It really feels like you're in some wealthy 18th-century family's summer home in the country. Oh, and they have a pet bear.
... And a lazy fox!
Holy crap, who let that deer in here?
One of the first things I noticed in the museum is that there are several different rooms named for a specific animal, like the Salle du Sanglier — the Wild Boar Room — which are full of neat things like paintings and sculptures inspired by these animals, as well as information about the animals' physiology, their place in European folklore, the history of their relationship with humans (particularly with regard to the hunting of these creatures), etc.
This painting of cats trying to kill each other cracked me up! Check out this bigger version too.
Various ceramic wild boar heads, for some reason. I think this must be a Thing.
Wow! This place is yet another addition to the list of museums I would like to live in.
A rooster with horns! This was part of a strange, dark little room called Le Cabinet de la Licorne — the Unicorn Cabinet — which was full of curiosities like this, some of which are real and some of which are very much mythical.
I'm pretty sure the red shoes in this wolf exhibit have something to do with Little Red Riding Hood and how our fear of wolves plays into folklore. Check out those big wolf eyes; the better to see you with!
Amazing trophy room.
The museum also has an amazing collection of old rifles, hunting knives, powder pouches, etc, many of which are exquisitely ornate.
Now this, I have no idea what's going on here. The centerpiece in that strange object behind the table is a model of the human digestive system. Flanked by gorillas and supported on seahorse legs. I think it's, like, art?
A display representing an old hunting lodge. When I end up living in this museum I'll make this my office.
One thing I really loved (not shown, and not in this particular room), was an art installation of a forest made of carboard, taking up an entire wall of an otherwise-empty room, with a wooden box in the middle, covered in buttons with the names of birds next to them. You can press any button and hear that particular bird's song!
I love this chair made of elk antlers, and I also love the museum's elegant way of saying "please don't sit here" — a feather on each piece of furniture.
The dog room! Dedicated to dogs as hunting companions.
19th-century dog collars! Presumably for 19th-century goth kids.
Another thing I didn't get a good picture of is an art installation involving a real wreck of a tiny European car, all rusted out, with real (dead) trees growing up through it, with birds and nests and stuff in the branches. So cool. You really need to go to this place. I insist. If you e-mail me and tell me you're not going to this place I will punch you. [Correction: Manning Krull will not punch you under any circumstances. Cool Stuff in Paris regrets the error.]
Check out that strange hunting bugle sculpture on the mantle; that's a real bugle, chopped in half, with part of the metal pounded out to create a base.
Look at that little fella! So cute!
My pictures barely scratch the surface of how wonderful this place is, so you really have to visit it yourself.
Take the Métro to Rambuteau and walk North on Rue Beaubourg. If you're walking toward the Centre Pompidou, you're going the wrong way (and the Centre Pompidou is hard to miss, since it's a huge, weird, colorful art museum). From Rue Beaubourg, turn right on a small street called Rue Michel le Comte. This street becomes Rue des Haudriettes a block later; just keep going. At the next block, turn left onto Rue des Archives. The door to the museum will be a little ways down this street and on the right, at number 62. There's also a sign for the museum just around the corner on Rue des Quatre Fils, but there's no entrance there, so make sure you're looking on Rue des Archives and you can't go wrong.
Please check the museum's website for information about their hours and ticket prices. Last time I was there it was just €6 for adults.