Bright lights, scary and beautiful faces, exotic vehicles, dancing animals that pump up and down …. The Paris Musée des Arts Forains (Fairground Arts Museum) opens its doors to the general public between the day after Christmas and the first Sunday in January. Visit the museum without a reservation between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. This is one of two occasions, the other is Journées du Patrimoine.
The collection of costumes, Music Hall accessories and amusement park rides dates from the nineteenth century. Some of the attractions include a Hooghuys organ, the bicycle merry-go-round, swing boat, the Parisian Waiter Race, and Fun fair background photos (put your head in the hole of the character). Mr. Favand believes the bicycle merry-go-round (vélocipèdes) “is a real heritage…. It should almost be behind a glass screen!” Converted over time to steam-driven and then powered electrically, Mr. Favand restored the vélocipède to its original condition. Riders now pedal to make it go round.
With the price of an entry ticket, choose an amusement ride, either the carousel or other amusement rides. A fairground-style show is scheduled every thirty minutes. Musicians and stilt walkers will guide the visitors between the buildings.
Formerly, an old wine storage facility, these preserved attractions cover four themes: Le Musée des Arts Forains, Le Théâtre du Merveilleux, Les Salons Vénitiens and Le Théâtre de Verdure.
Jean-Paul Favand, the founder, has put together the largest collection of fairground art in Europe at Bercy. For its preservation and presentation, the Ministry of Commerce deems the museum important enough to be labeled as a living heritage (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant).
The Web page Pavillons de Bercy provides a virtual visit in English. On the page, follow the Union Flag link for a virtual visit to the Museum of Fairground Art in English. Tap the “Attractions” link to find the background of the museum, photos, a virtual visit, etc.
Over 200,000 people visit the museum annually to see and ride these restored marvels. The restorers had to remove one hundred years of paint to give each piece a “renewed voice”. The Indian elephant, acquired in 2010, was part of the 1931 Colonial Exhibition. It is an illustration of the connection between fairground art and the popular world fairs after 1900. The elephant required over 300 hours of restoration work.
Except for private receptions and group reservations, the only other time for individuals and families to visit the museum is during European Heritage Days (Journées Européennes du Patrimoine) the third weekend in September.
Musée des Arts Forains
Open everyday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., no reservations
Admission: 12 euros/ 10 euros (students and handicaps)/ 5 euros (under 12)
One ticket = one ride
53 avenue des Terroirs de France 75012
Metro: Line 14, Cour St Emillion/ Bus: 24, 64
Telephone: 01 43 40 16 22
Guided visits in English for Musée des Arts Forains
More fun stuff:
National Fairground Archive from the University of Sheffield
News from the past: Self-Powered Loop-the-Loop Is Latest Ride – 1935 Popular Mechanics (not part of the museum)