Established in 1982, The Musée d’Histoire Locale de Rueil-Malmaison is located in the former Town Hall of Rueil-Malmaison, just a two-minute walk from l’Eglise Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul along Rue Paul Vaillant Coutier.
Designed by architects Lebois and Prince in 1868, the old town hall displays the same stone and red brick style as that of Fontainebleau. When it was opened by Napoleon III on September 1, 1869, the village of Rueil also received its own coat of arms.
The coat of arms consist of an image of Château de Malmaison, a hydrangea (‘Hortensia’ in French) for Queen Hortense, and a gilt ‘N’ surmounted by a shining star representing the Napoléonic dynasty.
The original building was enclosed in railings, and two pavilions stood at the entrance, one serving as a guardroom and the other as the police station. The left pavilion is still there today. The coat of arms and the Imperial Eagle adorn the facade above the first-floor centre window.
The Museum is dedicated entirely to Rueil’s history, and consists mainly of collections from the Historical Society of Rueil-Malmaison, enriched by donations from individuals and the municipal archives. The various rooms of the Museum bring together, by theme, the works, objects and memories that make up the history of Rueil.
The entrance to the museum demonstrates the village life of yesteryear. Here you can admire a Swiss Guard (the barracks of Rueil, built under Louis XV was home to 800 Swiss Guards), a winemaker (winemaking has long been one of the main activities of the city), and a laundry press (1850) symbolising another important activity of Rueil.
The first room, the Salle André Mantois, recalls significant periods of the town’s history including Neolithic, Merovingian, Richelieu and Napoleonic times. Here you will find various documents, engravings and letters tracing the lives of Napoléon and Joséphine. Of particular interest is Joséphine’s death certificate, written by Pierre-Louis Busset, a former officer of the Swiss Guards. Exhibits also tell of Napoléon III’s dealings with this, his favourite town.
The Salle Alfred Cramail contains documents and memorabilia from the Eglise Saint-Pierre Saint-Paul, notably Napoleon III’s ceremonial armchair and the wreaths that were originally laid on Queen Hortense’s sarcophagus. The wreaths were made of ropes from the Belle Poule, the ship that brought Napoléon’s body back from Saint Helena.
The Salle Doctor Launay is dedicated to the memories of war and especially the events of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. The panels describe the fighting at Malmaison in October 1870 and that of Buzenval in January 19, 1871 when 4,000 people were killed during the battle. Exhibits include articles and documents found on the battlefield, newspaper prints describing the siege of Paris, the battle plan of Malmaison printed in Berlin, various photographs of the city and its surroundings in 1870, and a reproduction of Défense de la Porte de Longboyau (21 October 1870) based on the painting by Alphonse de Neuville. Some objects are reminiscent of 1914-1918 War: ration cards, small souvenirs made in the trenches from sockets bullets or shells.
In the Salle Empire, you can admire a unique collection of 1,600 hand-painted figurines, purchased by the Historical Society and the City, representing the Grand Army, a summary of the French and European society during the Napoléonic time: Marshals, Officers, Imperial Guard, Guard of Paris, Lancers and Cuirassiers, Gunners and Grenadiers Regiments Swiss etc. Letters from Marshals Jourdan, Lefebvre and Victor, and a slide show complete the presentation.
One room is dedicated to Édouard Belin (1876-1963) inventor in 1907 of the Bélinograph, a system capable of sending photographs to remote locations through telegraph and telephone networks. In 1921, the process was improved so that it could be sent via radio waves as well. Modern fax machines and photocopiers use the same principle.
The Salle Eugene Capelle evokes the history of the postcard and, in particular, many photographs of Rueil in the early 20th century. Rueil was a centre for postcard development and printing. This room is named in the memory of the famous French photographer, Eugene Capelle.
The Salle Blanchisserie highlights how Reuil became a centre for the laundry industry. The location of Rueil near a significant energy source, namely the Bois de Saint-Cucufa, allowed 80 laundries to proliferate. The main customers were Parisians, not least because the laundry from the Elysée Palace had long been laundered in Rueil.
There is much to see, and an enthusiast may well need the full three and half hours. You can combine your visit to the Museum with other tourist sites around Rueil as the hop-on/hop off Train Touristique de Rueil starts and finishes outside the Museum.
Musée Histoire Rueil-Malmaison
6 Rue Paul Vaillant Coutier, 92500 Rueil-Malmaison
+33 1 47 32 66 50
Open every day except Sundays and holidays from 2.30 pm to 6.00 pm. Closed August
From Paris: RER line A to station Rueil-Malmaison, then bus number 467 or 144 stop Mairie de Rueil
Societe Historique de Rueil-Malmaison