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History of the Musee D’Orsay

Originally the central road through Queen Marguerite de Valois’ Garden, and subsequently the Palais d’Orsay, which served as home to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Counsel, the site of the Musee D’Orsay is as storied as the famous art housed inside it.

During the violent Paris Commune in 1887, the entire neighborhood was burned down, where it remained as a symbol of the upheaval until the 1900 World’s Fair, when the Gare D’Orsay (Orsay Train Station) was unveiled. Complete with the most modern amenities, the station served as Paris’ central rail station through 1939 when, due to the modernization of the electric train and the size of the platforms, the station was deemed better used by becoming a suburban commuter Hub. 

Throughout the following decades, the Gare D’Orsay served as a WWII mail depot and a popular film set for movies such as Orson Welles’ rendition of Kafka’s The Trial, before becoming the Drouot Hotel.

In 1973, the Hotel closed its doors and the Direction des Musees de France decided to build a museum to exhibit art from the second half of the 19th century. After a competition from hotel developers arose, demolition appeared destined to end the life of the famed building.  However, the mid 1970’s saw a revived interest in preserving 19th century architecture and the station was classified a Historic Monument. In 1977, a civil commission was created to oversee renovations to the building and establish the museum’s collection, which is comprised of mostly Impressionists works. Nine years later, on December 9th, 1986, the Musee D’Orsay opened its doors to the public.