AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXIX, No. 1, Spring 1997


The Museum and Archives of the Radium Institute, Paris

by Ginette Gablot

The existence of a Curie Museum is owing to the persistent drive of nuclear physicists to preserve a record of the activities of the founders of their field, along with an opportunity that was presented in 1957 by the relocation of most of the Radium Institute´s scientific teams from the Latin Quarter in Paris to the Orsay Institute of Nuclear Physics in the Paris environs. In 1964 a lieu de mémoire (memorial site) was opened: Marie Curie´s director´s office, her private study, transformed into an archival and exhibit space. Not until 1981 was Marie Curie´s chemistry laboratory (used also by her daughter Irène) decontaminated of traces of radioactivity, brought back to its original appearance, and opened to the public.

The Museum holds more than 3,000 instruments and objects. On display, among others, are apparatus for measuring radioactivity, a quadrant electrometer, a Wilson cloud chamber with photos of particle trajectories, and a Bragg apparatus, as well as a reconstruction of the chemical equipment that Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie used for the first separation of radio-phosophorus and radio-nitrogen. Panels illustrated with photographs recall the work of these scientists.

The archives comprise the records of the Radium Institute and the personal papers of the Joliot-Curies. In addition there are press clippings from 1903 to the present, files documenting the Institute, and a library. The archives together with the Museum constitute a "laboratoire mixte" of the CNRS (French national science foundation) attached to the Curie Institute, under the direction of Monique Bordry. Thematic guided visits called "Parcours des sciences" (Travels through Science) help inspire further action to preserve the historical legacy of research establishments.

For more information address the Musée Curie, Monique Bordry (Directeur du Musée et des Archives), 11 rue Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France; phone +01 42 32 6749, Fax +01 40 51 0636, e-mail:; or Ginette Gablot (Chargée des Archives, responsable des Parcours des sciences), phone +01 44 32 4087, Fax 01 44 32 4095.

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