Pix & notes: Musée de la Préfecture de Police

We were delighted to discover this fascinating exhibit on the third floor of the modern police station, fairly well hidden among the twisting narrow lanes on the Left Bank near the Seine. It wouldn’t have police-museumoccurred to me to look for a police museum, but now I discover that there are many of them in the cities of the world. Houston, L.A., Sydney, Vancouver, New York… how have I been missing these? They’re a wonderful resource for writers of crime fiction.

The one in Paris may be the oldest. It was started by prefect Louis Lépine (1846-1933) in 1900. It’s fitting that this should be the first, because the “French police officer Alphonse Bertillon was the first to apply the anthropological technique of anthropometry to law enforcement, thereby creating an identification system based on physical measurements.” (Wikipedia, Forensic science.)

The great museums of the world — the Louvre, the National Gallery in London, the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City – are wonderful on a grand scale, but I love these specialized museums the best. Every time I turn around, I go, “Oh! Look at that!” And there’s usually nobody else in there, which somehow adds to the pleasure of discovery. The signage is all in French, but with a little boost from Google Translate here and there, you can get the gist. French is a lot like English, after all.

On to the photographs

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You go inside the police station and say, “Museum?” The cheerful police persons wave you up to the third floor.

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Hard to take pix of things in glass cases, but this is what the Paris police wore in Moriarty’s day.

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Details for novelists. A bit blurry, but look: cops had identification embroidered on their collars. ID number and arrondisement, I’m guessing.

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The pistol, the letter, the bullet… you tell the rest of the story.

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How handy is this bomb? It’s from Napoleon III’s time, which is 1848 to 1852 (President) and 1852 to 1870 (Emperor.)

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No lady should walk the streets of Paris in the late nineteenth century without this set of wicked brass knuckles in her reticule. Ouch!

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And how about this useful set of lock picks? They would clink, I think, as you walked around.

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Choose your weapon, all pocket-sized.

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Old-fashioned handcuffs, many styles to choose from.

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Alphonse Bertillon invented the mug shot in 1888, standardizing methods of identifying criminals.

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