Audio File length: 2.39
English / USA Language: English / USA

Hi, I'm Alyson, your personal guide. Together with MyWoWo, I'd like to welcome you to one of the wonders of the world.

Today I'll accompany you through Musée d'Orsay.

You should know that Orsay is one of Paris's most unusual museums!

You are about to admire one of the most beautiful collections in the world. You've probably heard of its collection of impressionist paintings, but you should also get ready to see wonderful decorative arts and photographs.

First of all, you should know that the museum's first work of art is the museum itself! A magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture, the building was built just before the 1900 Universal Exposition as a railway station in the center of Paris, with a scenic panorama overlooking the Seine. But as early as the end of the 1930s, modern trains were having a hard time reaching the station platforms because they were too short, and the available space was inconvenient for accommodating passenger traffic. As such, its railroad was abandoned.

Over the following few decades, the historic building repeatedly ran the risk of being demolished, and was saved only by the tenacity of a group of citizens who managed to proclaim the former station a "national monument", saving it from demolition. Finally in 1977, at the behest of the then-President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the palace was set up as a museum of nineteenth-century art, or rather art ranging from 1848 to 1914. Paintings and sculptures for the new collection were sent mainly from the former Jeu de Paume Museum dedicated to Impressionism, and then artwork from the Louvre and the National Museum of Modern Art were added (which were later sent to Beaubourg).

The Italian architect and designer Gae Aulenti won the international competition for the station's transformation into a museum, which had the aim of preserving the original architectural structure as much as possible.


FUN FACT: let me give you an idea of the complicated history this former station underwent: in the Second World War it was a mail sorting center, then it became a refugee center for prisoners of war, then the set of Orson Welles' movie The Trial, then home to an auction house and theatrical performances. And they even considered turning it into a sports center with a swimming pool!

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