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Curie museum

The Curie Museum, where history and memory meet

Curie museum

The Curie Museum is on the ground floor of the Curie Pavilion, in one of the oldest buildings of the Institut Curie. This laboratory, erected a few streets away from the “shed” where the Curies discovered polonium and radium in 1898, was specially built for Marie Curie by the University of Paris and the Institut Pasteur between 1911 and 1914.
Here she pursued her work for nigh on twenty years, and here too her daughter and son-in-law Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie discovered artificial radioactivity, for which they received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935.
The Curie Museum is the guardian of this institutional heritage, a place of memories and a repository of the history of science. It has a permanent exhibition and a center for historical resources. The exhibits retraces the history of radioactivity and its applications, notably in medicine, giving pride of place to the lives and work of Pierre and Marie Curie and of Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie. The historical resources center holds archives and documentation on the history of the Curies and the Joliot-Curies and of the Institut Curie (archives of the Radium Institute and of the Curie Foundation), and more broadly the history of radioactivity and oncology. 

Brief history of the Curie Museum and its collections

Various commemorations have enabled the progressive setting up of a museum open to the public, together with a historical resources center. When erected in 1914, the Radium Institute was divided in two: the Pasteur Pavilion housed the Pasteur Laboratory overseen by the Institut Pasteur and headed by Claudius Regaud, and facing it was the Curie Pavilion which housed the Curie Laboratory supervised by the University of Paris and directed by Marie Curie. On the death of Frédéric Joliot in 1958, the directors who succeeded him at the head of the Curie Laboratory wished to preserve unchanged the director's office, which was successively occupied by Marie Curie from 1914 to 1934, by André Debierne until 1946, by Irène Joliot-Curie up to 1956, and lastly by Frédéric Joliot. In 1964, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the discovery of artificial radioactivity, it was decided to install in the entrance hall of the Curie Pavilion glass-fronted display cabinets to hold some of the most important apparatus used up to the 1930s. In 1967, on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Marie Curie, her office and personal chemistry laboratory preserved intact were shown to privileged visitors. In 1981, because of an increase in the number of visitors, Marie Curie's chemistry laboratory was decontaminated and reconstructed thanks to a subsidy from the French Cancer League.
Since 1992 the museum has been open to the public every weekday afternoon. Guided visits are given.
In 1995, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Curie Foundation and the transfer of the ashes of Pierre and Marie Curie to the Panthéon, and in anticipation of the one hundredth anniversary of the discovery of natural radioactivity, the instruments exhibition room was renovated and enlarged. Throughout this time, the Curie Laboratory's archives and instruments have been conserved and classified. The collection of objects, documents and archives of Marie Curie, and of Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, has been enriched, notably by successive donations by the family and also through the actions of Association Curie et Joliot-Curie . The collection was further enhanced in 2002 by the addition of archives and documents stemming from the medical and biological activities of the former Pasteur Laboratory and of the Curie Foundation.  

Status and missions

Since 1994, the Curie Museum (Institut Curie / CNRS-IN2P3) has had the status of a joint CNRS and Institut Curie unit (UMS 6425).
Through the different parts of this rich heritage - the premises, scientific instruments, objects, books, historical documents, manuscripts, photographic and audiovisual materials - the Curie Museum focuses on three main activities:

  • welcoming visitors;
  • conservation, development and enrichment of its collections;
  • contribution to historical and museological research, and scientific and cultural events.
Institut Curie