Some of you might not care that the only doll museum in Paris is closing its doors forever this fall. In fact, plenty of people suffer from pediophobia– a fear of dolls– and my intern happens to be one of them. She looked at me like I’d lost a screw when I said we’d be going to photograph the Musée de la Poupée in its last days. Of course, by the end of our visit to the museum, she had adopted two antique dolls to take home with her.
The odd little musée housing a collection of more than 600 French dolls, arranged chronologically from about 1800 to the present, has just under two months left before its time runs out. Well hidden down an alleyway in the Marais, we had considerable trouble finding it, which we half-joked might be the reason it’s closing down.
Alas, the official reason for closure is that the building housing the collection is “no longer fitting European security standards”. I suspect it also has something to do with the rent in the Marais being steadily on the rise and visitor numbers steadily on the decline. It took me seven years of living in Paris to discover what is possibly the kitschiest and most unusual museum in Paris– and now I’m too late. Seven years too late. Too late even for a crowd-funding campaign to maybe help save this unappreciated pearl of Parisian curio.
You see, it isn’t so much about the dolls for me, exquisite as they are, it’s about the loss of another small and independent museum of oddities that strikes a chord. Isn’t Paris the kind of city that should be breeding these types of places like wild and flavourful mushrooms? If small museums can’t make it in Paris, can they make it anywhere?
For centuries, Paris has been considered a haven of artisanal crafts– heck, it even gave birth to the “Golden Age of Automata” during the Belle Epoque, which saw small family-based companies of mechanical doll makers thriving in Parisian ateliers.
The closure Musée de la Poupée is a cold reminder that no small or family-run business– not even in gay ol’ Paris– is safe. Your local bars, Mom & Pop shops and little cultural gems that have been around forever– don’t take them for granted. Cherish them, support them, stamp your feet if their existence is threatened.
But now, back to the doll museum. The father and son business, founded over two decades ago, is closing its doors on September 15th. Until then, a visit to the museum in its final days can turn into an unexpected foray into the world of doll collecting. For the next two months, the Musée de la Poupée is turning into the ultimate doll shop, cleaning out its closet and having one giant sale of its treasures at flea market prices.
From rare (and sometimes controversial) antique dolls to more recent toys from your own childhood that you’d almost forgotten about– you can find them waiting in trunks and lined up on shelves waiting to go to a good home.
They have a particularly interesting collection of international dolls, from Indian princesses to flamenco dancers and bullfighters in exquisitely detailed little costumes. I picked one up for my bookshelf and I think he fits right in to the MessyNessy HQ wouldn’t you say? ↓
If you’re in Paris this summer, pay a visit to this unusual little museum– you might just hold a doll in your arms and realise that they’re not blood-thirsty demons after all, but rather a reminder of your appreciation for the little guy, the underdog and the small, forgotten pleasures in life.
Musée de la Poupée: Open Tues-Sat, 1-6pm until the 15th September 2017/ 7 Impasse Berthaud, 75003 Paris.