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article imageLyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (part I) Special

By Michael Cosgrove     Dec 4, 2010 in Entertainment
Lyon - This fascinating museum offers visitors a peek into the world of cinema production and it also has a miniature model section containing a collection of extremely detailed representations of daily life across the years.
Set in one of the most celebrated Renaissance buildings in France, the Miniature Model and Cinema museum opened its doors 20 years ago and has been a favorite for both locals and tourists ever since. The model section contains what the museum calls “visual mirages” – models that are so realistic the most frequently heard comment made by those looking at them is “It’s almost as if we were really in the room.”
Miniature – or “scale” models – have existed for thousands of years and were hand-made until the industrial revolution, which permitted the mass production of parts on an industrial scale, which in turn led to them becoming universally popular. The most well known modern example is the doll’s house, which was one of the first kinds of model to become popular, in the 17th century.
There are more than 1,000 miniature models or objects in the museum, and it is hard to look at them without meditating upon the sheer patience and dexterity needed to produce them. None of the models (pictured below) measures more than about 16” x 10”, and the photo captions include the approximate size of each object or place shown.
France is well known for its restaurants and Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France, so no model museum would be complete without at least one restaurant. This is a "bouchon," a typical Lyon restaurant that sells local dishes only and the wine list is rather short. You have the choice between a carafe of local Cotes-du-Rhône red and a carafe of local Cotes-du-Rhône red.
Model of a  bouchon  restaurant in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 13 x7 )
Model of a 'bouchon' restaurant in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 13"x7")
Over 100 miniaturists are represented, and the models are mostly representations of what familiar places we all know looked like in the past. One of those places is the laundry. They are frequented by millions of people today but that wasn't the case in the past, when you would leave your laundry to be cleaned and come back to collect it later.
Model of a laundry in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (15 x10 )
Model of a laundry in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (15"x10")
Model of a laundry in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 8 x5 )
Model of a laundry in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 8"x5")
Bread is made from wheat, and wheat is grown in fields. It has to be harvested and processed before being sold to bakers, and one of the first trips it makes is from the field it was grown into the barn. And that trip used to be made in one of these.
Model of a farm cart in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 4 x6 )
Model of a farm cart in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 4"x6")
There are still many old farmhouses to be seen in France, and some even have the kind of windows seen here. More and more small farms are disappearing in France, as they are bought up and regrouped into one massive farm for big companies, but the farmhouses themselves still exist and they are the object of much convoitise from more wealthy home-buyers. Here’s one model maker’s idea of how a farmhouse might have looked in the past.
Model of a farmhouse in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 4 x5 )
Model of a farmhouse in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 4"x5")
Some people work as jewelers. They need a quiet place to work in and a workbench.
Model of a jeweler s workshop in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 6 x5 )
Model of a jeweler's workshop in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 6"x5")
At the end of the day though both farmhands and jewelers agree that a hard day’s work should be rewarded with rest, and what better place to relax after work than in a bar. This model of a down-to-earth 1970s bar takes you to where French people used to be found in the days when people drank an aperitif after work, a habit that is now dying out. Old-timers say that in those days this kind of working-class bar - or “zinc” as they were called - would be packed with people drinking pastis. You can still see bars which look just like this, particularly in more remote country areas.
Model of a bar in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 15 x10 )
Model of a bar in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 15"x10")
Bread is best not eaten alone as it makes for a rather frugal meal, so we need shops in which we can buy what we need to make a meal. Many small local shops still sell the same mix of products in the same kind of floor layout, but the decor and furniture have changed.
Model of a grocery store in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 12 x8 )
Model of a grocery store in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 12"x8")
Books as we know them today didn’t exist before the printing press was invented. The invention of the printing press was the biggest revolution the world had seen in terms of making writing available to a larger public since the invention of papyrus.
Model of a printing press in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 3 x6 )
Model of a printing press in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 3"x6")
Many of us can’t afford to buy all the books we’d like to read, however, and that’s why libraries and bookshops were invented. There is a model of a library at the top of the page.
Whatever we have done during the day, it ends with us going to sleep. Not all of us sleep at home all the time however, and that is the case for children who attend boarding schools or university students. Here is what a school dorm looked like 60 years ago.
Model of a boarding school dorm in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 10 x7 )
Model of a boarding school dorm in Lyon’s Miniature Model and Cinema museum (detail 10"x7")
The Miniature Model and Cinema museum has an Internet site containing many photographs of its contents as well as other details.
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