France - Libraries and museums

Paris, the leader in all intellectual pursuits in France, has the largest concentration of libraries and museums. The Bibliothèque Nationale, founded in Paris in 1480, is one of the world's great research libraries, with a collection of 10.4 million books, as well as millions of manuscripts, prints, maps, periodicals, and other items of importance (including 11 million stamps and photographs). The libraries of the 13-unit University of Paris system have collective holdings of more than six million volumes, and each major institution of higher learning has an important library of its own. The national archives are located in the Hôtel Rohan Soubise in Paris. In 1997 there were 1,620 central public libraries with a combined total of more than 89.8 million volumes.

There are more than 1,000 museums in France. The Louvre, which underwent an extensive renovation and addition in the 1980s, including the construction of its now-famous glass pyramid, contains one of the largest and most important art collections in the world, covering all phases of the fine arts from all times and regions. The Cluny Museum specializes in the arts and crafts of the Middle Ages. The Museum of Man is a major research center as well. The Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou opened in 1977 on the Beaubourg Plateau (Les Halles). Primarily a museum specializing in contemporary art, it also houses several libraries, children's workshops, music rooms, and conference halls. The Musée d'Orsay, a major new museum housing impressionist and postimpressionist paintings and many other works set in historical context, opened to the public in December 1986 in a former train station. Many of the 19th-century and 20th-century paintings in the Musée d'Orsay had previously been housed in the Musée du Jeu de Paume. There are dozens of libraries and historic sites dedicated to specific French writers and artists, including the Maison de Balzac in Paris, the Musée Calvin in Noyon, the Musée Matisse in Nice, the Musée Rodin in Meydon (there is also a National Museum of Rodin in Paris), and the Musée Picasso in Paris. Most provincial cities have municipal libraries and museums of varying sizes. Many of the great churches, cathedrals, castles, and châteaus of France are national monuments.

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