From the outside, apart from the sign designating it as such, the Musée de l’école (school museum) in Carcassonne’s La Cité walled hill town could have been a largely featureless, small, old house rather than a school. For all I know, maybe it once was.
The museum’s raison d’être (I always look for opportunities to say raison d’être when talking about something in France) is to provide an example of what a school was like in the late 19th century. I’m not quite clear on why they chose to present a 19th century-style school when La Cité’s principal claim to fame is its medieval past, but so be it.
The structure sat behind a paved courtyard with a lonely, nondescript tree in the midst of the courtyard. Unexceptional white wooden shutters adorned the outside of its windows.
Upon rereading them, I recognize that the previous paragraphs made the museum sound sort of mundane. That’s only because it was. Then again, it was supposed to be representative of an old small-town school, not the Taj Mahal. So, it was roughly what it should have been, I guess.
There were a couple of classrooms in the Musée de l’école. One contained a teacher’s desk at the head of the room and a few rows of students’ desks housing filled inkwells in front of that. Nib pens also sat on the students’ desks. I and the other visitors (there were only a few when I was there) were free to try out the pens and ink if we so chose. I didn’t so choose because that’s just the sort of guy I’m not.
Rooms of the Musée de l’école
The remaining few rooms in the museum included a library and a couple of sundry spaces.
The rooms displayed examples of diplomas, certificates and other school documents of the period. The documents were all exclusively French. This should not be surprising as the museum was in a town in France and meant to depict a period when Anglophones were not yet totally spoiled, as we are today, by English having become a near-universal lingua franca almost everywhere tourists roam.
A poster from the period explaining the effects and dangers of alcoholism hung on one wall. There’s probably a politically incorrect joke to be made about young students imbibing alcohol, but it’s not coming to me at the moment and I am eager to move on.
One of the rooms also contained high tech audio visual equipment, namely an old motion picture projector. I’m guessing the curator of the museum took some liberty with this as movie projectors weren’t invented until very near the end of the 19th century. I doubt they were in any small schools in hilltop towns during that century. Besides, while I’m not an expert in these things, I don’t think the type of projector that was on display came into use until the beginning of the 20th century.
Then again, it’s possible that I somewhat misunderstood the museum’s raison d’être. The museum’s focus might be the 19th century and beyond, not just the 19th century. In which case, never mind. By the way, this is a good time to mention that anyone who depends on me for information like that—particularly when the information originates in a language other than English—is an imbecile. You’ve been warned.
Speaking of English, none of the displays in the museum carried any accompanying English translations. However, I picked up at the front desk a simple, printed sheet explaining what was in each room.
If you’re in Carcassonne’s La Cité walled hill town and you’re looking for something to do to fill some time, the Musée de l’école is a mildly interesting way to do it. However, if your time in Carcassonne is particularly short, you’ll probably find it better spent elsewhere. And, if you do go in, don’t expect to spend a lot of time inside. As museums go, it’s rather small and somewhat sparse. (In addition, it’s not free, although the entry fee was only 2.50€ when I was there. So if you can afford to travel to Carcassonne in the first place, it probably won’t kill your budget.)