by Catherine Sigmond
When people go to Paris, they always want to visit the Louvre. But did you know that Paris also has the world’s most popular science museum? Here are 8 reasons you should visit the Cité des Science et de l’Industrie next time you’re in the City of Love.
- It’s a true leader in accessibility: Never fear, “Visiteurs non-francophone!” (Non-French-speaking visitors). The museum’s got your back. Not only has staff already translated the vast majority of their exhibitions and programs into English and Spanish, but they’re adding more languages with each new exhibition. Each exhibition also contains braille translations as well as tactile elements and sounds galore for blind visitors. Want to know what a fetus looks like at 14 weeks but can’t see a picture? Touch a statue of it to find out. Curious what a snail sounds like when it eats salad? There’s an audio recording of that. The museum also offers tactile tours focused on biodiversity, mechanics, and astronomy. It’s exhibitions are sub-titled in French Sign Language, and deaf visitors can also enjoy films that are translated into French Sign Language and subtitled in a variety of other languages, guided sign language tours, as well as special events organized for speakers of French Sign Language. The museum also reaches out to populations that might not normally have a chance to visit for economic and social reasons. Since 2004, it’s “Mission Vivre ensemble (Mission: Live Together),” organized by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, has worked to bring underserved youth to the museum.
- It hosts science activities on the beach: Not in the mood to be stuck inside all day during the summer? Just head to the beach! All summer long the museum is hosting science activities on the beaches of the Seine River. This summer’s lot features activities where you can explore da Vinci’s machines and water workshops where you can learn all about the technological challenges and historical implications of distributing this precious resource.
- Its temporary exhibitions are seriously cool: These exhibitions push the boundaries of science and do a great job of demonstrating how science and math relate to everyday life. “Design d’ailleurs: invitation au design finlandais” focuses on simple yet innovative Finnish designs, covering everything from houses to mobile devices. “L’économie: krach, boom, mue?” seeks to clear the air around the mysteries of the economy, inviting visitors to explore what the economy is, how it works, and the economic state of the world. “Léonard de Vinci, projets, dessins, machines” contains over forty of da Vinci’s fascinating machines, giving visitors a window into the inventor and artist’s fascinating world. And “Habiter demain, ré-inventons nos lieux de vie” explores the intimate link between society and the environment, focusing on how individual citizens’ choices as consumers influence the preservation of resources.
- It has an incredible multi-media exhibition on current science and technology: Curious what’s happening the world of science today? Head to the “Espace science actualités” to view a stunning collection of multi-media components that present the latest news in health, science, and technology. Four sections make up the exhibition- “Today’s questions” allows the visitor to investigate the most pressing scientific questions of the age, the “News Wall” presents live updates of science news from around the world, “Front-page Research” contains un-edited videos and stories of researchers in the lab, and “Artists Points of View” displays artists’ works inspired by the latest scientific questions and discoveries.
- You can tour a submarine from the 1950s: Visitors have the chance to go inside the “Argonaute, “ a 1950s French sub that traveled around the world ten times.
- It has a stunning, Epcot-like outdoor theater: Head to “La Géode,” the museum’s gorgeous, metallic sphere-shaped theater to see a variety of awesome IMAX and 3D films, as well as live transmission of events. Don’t feel like sitting through a long film? Visitors can also head to the Cinéma Louis Lumière to watch short 11-13 minute films on robots, chemistry, and dinosaurs, among other cool science topics.
- It hosts free, drop-in professional development workshops: Determined to create opportunities for the next generation of scientists, the museum’s 20-year old “Cité des métiers” workshop program is designed to help members of the public develop their professional skills and find jobs. The museum has partnered with dozens of science and professional organizations that provide staff that consult with and give advice to visitors on different aspects of professional life. The best part? The workshops are free, your meetings can remain anonymous, and you don’t need an appointment to talk to someone. Now the “Cité des métiers” workshops have expanded to eight different countries, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Chile, Mauritius, Switzerland, Belgium, and Canada.
- It has an amazing science library and a free health information space: The museum also hosts a huge library full of information on all sorts of science topics, complete with a health space where visitors can go to have their questions and concerns answered. Visitors who have questions about health and medical issues can visit the “Cité de santé” for free access to consultations and information on all things health. While it’s not a diagnostic or treatment center, it’s a great place to explore resources and talk to someone who can help you navigate your health concerns and find the information you need.