Two Thumbs Up ~ A Trip to Lyon's Musée Cinéma et Miniature

We’re spending a few days in Lyon with a dear friend and her family, and I am so pleased to have been introduced to this city. Paris has been tremendous, of course, but Lyon is a bit more…laid-back. There’s still so much to enjoy that I am sorry we won’t be staying longer, and the highlight so far has been this place:

Miniature library

La bibliotheque!

Reminiscent of the great library at Alexandria, it features shelves upon shelves of…teeny, tiny little books.

This is one of what must be close to a hundred different miniature scenes we took in this afternoon at the Musée Cinéma et Miniature. I wasn’t aware of Lyon’s prominent role in cinema history; it’s where brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematograph in the 1890s and shot the very first motion pictures. The Musée Cinéma et Miniature is a combination of movie memorabilia and intricate miniature scenes of both real locations in France and rooms conjured in the imagination of these artists. Museum curator Dan Ohlmann ‘s work as “France’s first miniaturist” led to the eventual establishment of a full collection of miniature works from around the globe, along with props from various movies and recreations of the sets of the movie “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer.”

Although my youngest kept asking “when are we go to the museum?” – having connected “museum” in his head with “ride in the stroller looking at paintings” – it was most definitely an impressive collection. My daughter loved the miniature scenes, being an avid dollhouse furniture collector, and my older son was very intrigued by the variety of movie props – particularly these:

Indiana Jones props

Indiana Jones’ biggest fan poses with props

We spent at least two hours exploring the multiple floors of the museum and could have stayed longer. You can peer into the workshop where Ohlmann creates his miniature masterpieces, and learn about the techniques behind special effects in movies both past and present. I was taken with a display of plaster casts of various actors made for fitting prosthetics, including this guy:

Jack Nicholson plaster cast

Heeeere’s Johnny!

And I couldn’t believe the intricacy of the series of miniature silhouettes on display – I didn’t catch the name of the artist, unfortunately, but I just don’t understand how you cut things this tiny. I don’t think I could achieve this precision if I were cutting out life-size drawings:

Miniature silhouette of a house

This image is about 3″ square on display

This was an excellent change of pace from our church/museum/baguette circuit so far and I know the kids will consider it a high point of the trip. Plus, they each got to spend some of their money at the gift shop on non-junky souvenirs – always the best part of any tourist experience when you’re under 12 with Euros to burn.

Dan Ohlmann is very proficient in creating new scenes to display and collecting new movie memorabilia, so I have no doubt it would be a different experience if we were to go back in a couple of years, which…could happen. You never know.

And if I may be so pedestrian, I would also like to salute this museum for offering restrooms on several floors, which makes it all the more family-friendly.

Here’s a little gallery of some of the other scenes we enjoyed at the museum (this gallery thing is a new gadget I’m trying out so if you’re reading this in a feed reader and you don’t see the images…click here to view the post itself.)

It was a happy accident that we had recently watched Hugo, based on the story of another famous French filmmaker, Georges Méliès. There’s actually a rather significant miniature prop from the movie displayed in the museum:

Miniature from the movie Hugo

Miniature from the movie Hugo

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  1. says

    That museum sounds amazing; I’ve already stuck it in evernote for an eventual possible visit to France. I’d get lost in those miniature rooms. And the silhouettes!