The museum’s entryway, although narrow, is a conspicuous shade of bright orange. And still, it’s easy to miss. But venture through the orange door and you’ll find yourself in a dark, humid chamber with cavernous vault ceilings: the unlikely premises of not one, but two historic Parisian museums.
To one side is the Automaton museum, where over a hundred metal, wood and paper machines (including some beautiful carnival shooting gallery targets) tick, buzz and whirr in perpetual motion. Dating from the 19th century through to the present, some comic, some raunchy, these strange gizmos come together in surprising synchronicity, performing their jerky mechanical ballet like one enormous music box.
To the other side of the entryway sits the Magic museum, a display of props, pamphlets, posters, and antique contraptions – all artefacts of magic’s golden age. Tracing the uses, perceptions and historical evolution of the magician’s craft, the museum is a tribute to Houdini and his ilk, the true practitioners, as opposed to Vegas entertainers like David Copperfield and Lance Burton. In this respect, the collection is a magnificent anachronism, hidden in plain sight on Rue Saint Paul.