by Jenine Lea Oesi,
Montmartre, historically the artistic heart of Paris, has a unique ambiance and character that is perfectly reflected in this museum.
Montmartre, like the 16th arrondissement, only became a part of the city of Paris in 1860. Prior to that time it was, again like the 16th, a village, the majority of whose inhabitants were involved in wine-growing, agriculture and gypsum mining. Indeed, the term ‘plaster of Paris’ refers to the high quality gypsum that was exported from the area at this time. The city underwent rapid urbanisation in the nineteenth century and a group of artists and historians, concerned about the effects of this on Montmartre and its surrounds, formed a society for the research and preservation of the culture and history of the area (the present 18th arrondissement). The society still exists today.
Once again, and as with so many museums in Paris, a large part of the pleasure of a visit comes as much from the location itself as from the collections on offer. There is just something magical about walking up an ancient wooden staircase which once resounded to Renoir’s or Utrillo’s steps, or of browsing in a room where they may have lunched or breakfasted with their friends and family. It takes you back in time in a way that no exhibit on its own can.
The museum is at 12, rue Cortot in the 18th arrondissement and is open everyday, except Mondays, from 11h00-18h00. Several metro stops serve the area. If you take metro line 2 and get out at Anvers it is just a short walk to the funiculaire that goes to the Sacré Cœur, from whence you can easily walk. Otherwise, you can alight at Blanche (on the same line) or take line 12 and alight at Lamarck Caulaincourt, the closest stop. If going by bus, take the 30 or 38 from Chatelet. A little train leaves in front of the Moulin Rouge at Place Blanche and does a circuit of the area that lasts about forty minutes. It’s not expensive and I found it great fun.