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The Creepy Medical History Museums of Paris

For centuries Paris was at the forefront of medical research, and at one time there were a half dozen museums dedicated to its fascinating history, from the earliest hospitals and the fight against contagious diseases to the first medical instruments and preserved anatomical specimens.

In 2012 the Musée de l’Assistance Publique (History of the Hospitals of Paris) closed to the public indefinitely (accessible only to researchers or for special occasions such as the Journées du Patrimoine).

medical history

On March 25th the little-known Musée Dupuytren will close as well. This small museum dating back to 1835 houses a gruesome collection of medical oddities, diseased brains preserved in jars, deformed skeletons, and wax anatomical models guaranteed to curb your appetite for the rest of the day. It’s located in the old refectory of the Cordeliers Convent (now part of the Sorbonne Université Pierre et Marie Curie) at 15 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, 6th. If you want to visit before the closure, opening hours are Monday-Friday 2-4:30pm. Get there early and expect to wait in line, because of course now everyone wants to see it!


If you don’t manage to get in, you can still visit the comparatively tame but larger Musée d’Histoire de la Médecin, opened in 1803 to house a collection of historic medical instruments like the autopsy kit used on Napoléon or the tool used to fix Louis XIV’s anal fistula. It’s located just across the street (at 12 rue de l’Ecole de Médecine, 6th) on the second floor of the Université Paris Descartes (follow the signs or ask at the welcome desk), open Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Saturday from 2-5:30pm, entry €3.50.

Finally, across town near the Canal St-Martin is the Musée des Moulages at the Hôpital St-Louis, the world’s largest collection of wax molds taken of dermatological diseases dating back to the early 19th century. The hospital, which is over 400 years old, conducted some of history’s groundbreaking research on skin diseases, notably syphilis (again, not a museum for anyone with a weak stomach). This video is from the museum’s campaign to restore the roof. Open Monday-Friday by reservation only (musee.moulages@sls.aphp.fr), entry €6.

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  • And do not forget Le musée Fragonard at L'École Nationale Vétérinaire d'Alfort just outside Paris. Medical history for animals.