Bibliothèque nationale de France – Richelieu

Paris, France


Long considered the heart of the National Library of France, the BnF Museum at Rue de Richelieu reopened to the public in September 2022, following the most extensive renovations project in the site’s history.

The relaunch marked the start of a new era in the life of the BnF as both library and museum, with a renewed focus on celebrating modern innovation, and promoting greater public access to the extraordinary collections held there.

Developed via the Ministry of Culture and carried out with the support of the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research, this ambitious project was realised by Guicciardini & Magni agency. The result has successfully delivered a vision of the new BnF Museum’s galleries that embraces the full range of the Library's world-class holdings, from ancient to modern.

Around 900 works are now on public display across the 1,200m² space, including the famous collections of coins, medals and antiques held at the site since the 18th century. But visitors exploring the reimagined rooms within will discover much more, too: an astonishing array of treasures, from costumes, antique weapons and illuminated manuscripts, to prints, photographs and objects spanning some 4,500 years of cultural history.

Rare and famous works from across the ages include Victor Hugo's original handwritten manuscript of Notre-Dame de Paris, Mozart’s original manuscript score of Don Giovanni, prints by Rembrandt and Picasso, exquisite Roman works such as the Berthouville Treasure and Grand Camée de France, and the bronze throne of Dagobert from the early Middle Ages. The history of photography can be followed too, with images from pioneers such as Nadar and Robert Capa.

Such an eclectic range of works required major input from Goppion, comprising more than 100 showcases and other items of gallery furniture. For example, some 37 vertical showcases were created, along with 17 island showcases, and a range of other shapes, sizes and design features that responded to the challenges of such a wide variety of fragile display material.

As well as a host of new showcases, renovation works were required for some historical showcases in the Luynes Room, which holds a collection of ancient objects, plus some exceptional later works such as Boabdil's sword. A walk through this room now immerses visitors in the world of an erudite 19th century aristocratic collector.

The biggest challenge for Goppion was actually the logistics of getting the showcase materials inside the building – no mean feat when the only access was via a rather small window on the second floor overlooking a one-way street that cannot be closed to traffic.

Happily, the effort was worth it. Goppion’s work contributes to the restoration of the Museum’s coherent identity, supporting the project aim of achieving a harmonious balance between the works and the spaces they inhabit. With conservation and operational needs also factored in, the resulting suite of showcases contributes aesthetically to enhancing the diversity of heritage architecture, scale, and content, which together constitute the unique identity of the site.

Collectively, the BnF’s new displays foreground the spirit of the place, its remarkable heritage, and the timeless value of collecting and preserving the rare and unique treasures of our cultural past. It is a must-see for any culturally curious visitor to Paris.