Story of the Museum

Les directions du Muséum depuis sa création

• Philippe-Isidore Picot de Lapeyrouse, 1796.
Édouard Fihol, 1865.
• Jean-Baptiste Noulet, 1872.
Eugène Trutat, 1890.
• De 1901 à 1907, le Muséum est administré par une Commission technique.
• De 1907 à 1944, la direction est placée sous le régime d'administrateurs périodiques.
• Rétablissement d'une direction : Gaston Astre, 19 mai 1944.
Claudine Sudre, 1962.
Jean-François Lapeyre, 2000.
Francis Duranthon, 2011.

Découvrez l'histoire du Muséum plus en détail sur L'Echo des réserves, le site dédié à nos collections !

A few dates in the Museum's history...

The 18th century, or the emergence of science.


Toulouse-born naturalist Philippe-Isidore Picot de Lapeyrouse, the first teacher of Natural History at the École Centrale in this, his native city, and Director of the Botanical Gardens and the Natural History Exhibition Room, installed his collection in the former Carmes Déchaussés Monastery.

Worth reading: Our blog article "The people who made the Museum of Toulouse what it is today: Philippe Picot de Lapeyrouse or the birth of collections"

Photo : Bust of Philippe-Isidore Picot de Lapeyrouse.

Credit: ©Frédéric Ripoll

The 19th century and the democratization of knowledge

Science became a mainstay of education. A real policy was devised and specially-devoted institutions were developed. Elsewhere, the colonial world ushered in new and different cultures. Interest in other people, that is to say foreigners, grew, and came up against a great deal of prejudice.


The Emperor Napoleon donated the entire Carmes Déchaussés Monastery to the City of Toulouse.

1865 The Museum opened to the public

Édouard Filhol, first director of this new institution, presented visitors with a great novelty: the gallery of Caves, devoted to prehistory. This world first was applauded by all commentators who witnessed it. It supported the recent scientific discoveries regarding the prehistoric origins of Man.


1872 The origins of Man at the heart of the institution

The naturalist and pioneer of prehistory Jean-Baptiste Noulet confirmed the prehistoric origins of mankind through his excavations. In 1872 he became the new Director of the Museum of Toulouse.


1887 Birth of the Botanical Gardens

On the occasion of Toulouse's International Exhibition, the botanical garden attached to the university were made an integral part of the Museum. Containing several hundred species of plants, it aroused considerable interest in exotic plants brought back from faraway places.



1890 The near and the known, a new object of study

French photographer, Pyrenees specialist, geologist and naturalist Eugène Trutat took some 15,000 photographs that are so many sources of information devoted to the Pyrenean mountain chain at the end of the 19th century. In 1890 he also became the director of the Museum and helped enrich its collections.



1- The Museum entrance (now the entrance to the Sorano Theatre) from the late 19th century up until the 1960s.
2- The entrance to the botanical garden (late 19th century)
3- Eugène Trutat, Director of the Museum de Toulouse from 1890 to 1901
Credits: CC Museum of Toulouse - Eugène Trutat

The 20th century, the challenge raised by globalisation

As exchanges multiplied between communities worldwide, the concept of races disappeared, giving way to universalism of the human species. Human sciences emerged as technologies and scientific discoveries developed at an ever quickening pace, and the Museum's institutions strove to be as accessible as possible.

1910 Preparing collections – Transferring know-how

Philippe Lacomme, taxidermist for the Museum of Toulouse, perfected a new technique and broke new ground in the way collections were exhibited: making taxidermy more dynamic and paying greater attention to reconstruction… All of which was highly appreciated by the public.

Ever since it opened to the public, the Museum has always given a lot of importance to preparing its collections, which are a major feature of any museum. This careful preparation means that after more than one century, it is still in a position to exhibit top quality objects. The Museum has always been lucky enough to have staff that possess the skills required to prepare stuffed animals, and who are determined to enrich the collections on a daily basis and bring them alive in a contemporary way.

Photo : Philippe Lacomme working on Punch, the elephant

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Credits:CC Muséum deToulouse - Augustin Pujol


1922 The South Sea Isles in Toulouse

The South Sea Isle collections of French navigator Gaston de Roquemaurel were transferred to the Museum of Toulouse. They rank among the most important collections in France.


1930 Understanding others

The explorer Henri Labouret discovered one of the major pieces which is now part of the African collection at the Museum of Toulouse: the mask of Nimba, goddess of fertility, made by the Bagas of Guinea. A choice exhibit with which to study African mythology.


1971 A museum for children

Spurred on by its director and head curator Claudine Sudre, the Museum created an educational department and a library for children. Making the museum accessible to as many people as possible was seen as the new priority.


The Museum became the proud owner of Pierre Loti's collection of South Sea Isles objects acquired during his travels, as well as his travel diaries.


The palaeontological site in Montréal-du-Gers was discovered. This palaeontological 'reservoir', property of the City of Toulouse since 1997, ranks among major sites in Europe and is the greatest 'reservoir' to have been discovered in France in a century. Dating back approximately 17 million years, it was excavated and made accessible to the public by the present director and head curator Francis Duranthon.


1997 Time for renovation

The Museum was closed to the public owing to signs of weakness in the building. This led to an ambitious and ground-breaking project both in terms of architecture and museography. A new scientific programme illustrated the complex and fragile nature of the relations between Man, Nature and the Environment.
The Museum of Toulouse is firmly focused on the 21
st century and directly engaged in current affairs. It sees itself as a site devoted to the debate, sharing and broadcasting of scientific culture and expression aimed at researchers. This radical reform was actively encouraged by Jean-François Lapeyre, former director of the Museum, and the present teams.

Photo : Virtual project by the architect Jean-Paul Viguier (2000)
Credits : ©Jean-Paul Viguier

The 21st century, the question of Man and his environment

New technologies are radically changing our way of life. How should we be apprehending our relationship with nature and the environment? Museums are increasingly being seen as tools in matters of societal questioning and debate.


2008 Inauguration of the reformed Museum

On 26 January, the inhabitants of Toulouse regained access to their Museum which, with added interactivity and a focus on social media, echoes modern-day society and the practices of new generations.

2009-2010-2011 The international Museum: two examples

Exhibitions: The Museum decided to export its temporary exhibitions, the aim being to consolidate and develop its influence at national and international levels, and in doing so, contribute to the notoriety of the City of Toulouse in terms of scientific culture. "Prehistory, the investigation" is the first temporary exhibition entirely produced by the Muséum to have been exported.
Enriching the collections: The Museum's policy in terms of enriching its non-European collections, and its American Indian collections in particular, is part of its new-found wish to own exhibits. The focus is on relations with ethnological Research Units and exchanges with populations. Example: a mission in central Brazil to meet the Karajá, also known as Iny, ending in 2016.

2012 One million visitors

We passed the one-million visitors mark on 3 July. The Museum confirms its vocation to welcome all types of visitors. Thanks to its programme and its inventive mediation plans, it promotes access to scientific culture and facilitates understanding.

2013 "Bears, Myths and Realities" exhibition

This exhibition promotes and highlights the Museum's laboratories of taxidermy, osteology, casting and palaeontology. Cannelle, the female bear from the Pyrenees, stuffed using new processes, shows the full extent of our know-how and the quality of the work carried out.

2014 Babies and science

The exhibition devoted to baby animals is an innovation in the history of scientific exhibitions in Europe. It was specially devised for tiny tots as young as three, and raises the issue of birth and development, offering a scientific approach aimed at very young children.


Yet more acquisitions…

Enriching its collections remains a priority for the Museum. In 2014, more than fifty objects were collected during missions in Brazil, 36 sample of mineralogy and 264 specimens found during excavations in Montréal-du-Gers…

1- The "Prehistory, the investigation" exhibition (2009) - Credit : ©Muséum de Toulouse, Géraldine Millo
2- The one millionth visitor - Credit : ©Ville de Toulouse - Patrice Nin
3- The "Baby Animals" exhibition (2014) - Credit : ©Muséum de Toulouse, Jacques Sierpinski