Thursday, August 16, 2018

A museum to see

August 16, 2018 -- While staring at the map of the area around the Place Georges Mulot neighborhood, I saw a museum that I didn't know existed:  the Musée Valentin Haüy (pronounced like "Ah, oui!").  Not surprisingly, it is a museum about the blind.

I knew that a very old school for the blind is in this area, and that Louis Braille had been a student there.  Valentin Haüy founded that school, and the museum's web site claims that it was the first school for blind children.  That makes sense, because Paris had been the site of the enormous hospital for the blind, Quinze Vingts, since 1260.  That hospital still exists, in a more modern form, next to the Bastille Opera.
La Place de Breteuil.
The middle street crossing through the Place Georges Mulot is named for Valentin Haüy, who established that school for blind kids in 1785.  Louis Braille invented his "tactile code for writing" when he was a student there, at age 16, in 1825.

The museum was established in 1886 by Edgard Guilbeau, a blind man.  His purpose was to highlight the importance of the invention of Braille, and to "situate it in its historical context."  The museum chronicles the history of access to education for the blind.

The Rue Valentin Haüy, looking from the Place de Breteuil toward the Place Georges Mulot.
Maurice de la Sizeranne, a teacher at the school, established the library that is associated with the museum in 1886.  Its collections include documents about blindness and visual impairment, as well as the writings of blind or visually impaired people. 

Twenty-seven languages are represented in the library's collections -- first and foremost, English.

Nicolas wine shop on the Place de Breteuil,
at the corner of the rue Valentin Haüy.
A few years after he established the library, M. de la Sizeranne founded an association for the well-being of the blind, and named it also for Valentin Haüy.  The museum and library are now a part of that association, headquartered at 5 rue Duroc.

Without my glasses, I am legally blind.  I also live with early adult-onset macular degeneration, the threat of a detached retina,  low pressure glaucoma, and the beginnings of cataracts.  Hence my interest in this institution for the blind and visually impaired.  I'm not walking with a white cane yet, but I am empathetic.

To reach the museum for the blind from the Place Georges Mulot, we would cross over the Avenue de Breteuil at the Place de Breteuil, where the magnificent Pasteur statue is situated.  If, instead, we turned right at the statue, we'd be in the lower end of the Avenue de Breteuil, where the broad green space in the middle has been turned into a neighborhood park.

The neighborhood around the Place Georges Mulot is outlined in red;
this is the former site of the Grenelle slaughterhouse.

The most charming aspect of this park are the small rectangular gardens that the neighbors have recently planted.  Each garden has a theme or a lesson associated with it.  The neighbors have a Facebook page about their little gardens:  Jardins de Breteuil.  Check it out.  Photos below.

Red fruit garden.

1 comment:

CDStowell said...

Goodness! I'm sorry to hear about your vision difficulties, especially since you enjoy and document your visual environment so much. Courage!