The exhibition "Trésors de la Terre" (Treasures of the Earth) installed in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, first opened its doors in 2014. This is a magnificent collection of minerals and objets d'art initiated in King Louis XIII's medicine chest, and enriched by four centuries of acquisitions.
A cabinet of natural history
Created in 1626, the "Droguier du Roi" was a collection of medicinal plants and minerals, which at the time were thought to have healing properties. In 1729, the Droguier became a cabinet of curiosities, and took the name "Cabinet d’Histoire Naturelle." Appointed intendant of the King's Garden in 1739, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon, enlarged the collection and opened it to the public in 1745. As time went by, new pieces arrived: gifts from explorers, collectors, and even monarchs. Louis XV donated a set of fine furniture inlaid with semi-precious stones.
The mineral kingdom at the Museum
The French Revolution opened a new era. By decree of the National Convention dated 1793, the Cabinet and the King's Garden were united to form the Museum of Natural History. Gérard van Spaendonck created the emblem of the institution, combining depictions of the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. In 1796, Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton, the first director of the institution, and holder of the chair of Mineralogy, was invited to choose gems from the French Crown Jewels for display. Thus the Museum acquired the Grand Sapphire of Louis XIV, and other historical gemstones for the purposes of public education. The collections continued to grow throughout the 19th century. When space became limited, the collections were accommodated in new, specialised buildings.
Birth of the Gallery
The construction of the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie began in 1833 under the direction of architect Rohault de Fleury. Made up of a long central nave, it first opened its doors in 1841, bringing together an exceptional collection of rocks, minerals, and objets d'art enriched by two centuries of discoveries and acquisitions.
In 1987 two new display rooms were added to the old library. The first of these houses giant crystals from Brazil. On the lower floor, the most precious pieces from the collection - gemstones and works of art - are showcased in the Salle du Trésor (the hall of treasures).
Renovation and Reopening
In the 2000s, various parts of the Gallery were successively closed for safety reasons and for renovation work. The Total group, a patron since 1983, helped to renovate a gallery pavilion to host the Trésors de la Terre exhibition, which opened to the public on 19 December 2014.