Today, the Museum of Hunting and Nature is one of Paris' most unique attractions, boasting one of a kind collections such as taxidermy animals, beautiful sculptures, and a wide array of hunting weapons. However, the building that is now home to this incredibly entertaining museum was once a stunning aristocratic mansion and hotel built in the 17th century. This hotel, named the Hôtel de Guénégaud, was designed by François Mansart, who was one of the most applauded classical French architects of his time. Remnants from the wildly luxurious hotel built for Jean-François Guénégaud, the hotel's namesake, are still visible on both the exterior and interior of this classic French mansion. After standing for multiple centuries, the Hôtel de Guénégaud was finally named a historic monument in 1962 after being threatened to be destroyed due to public insalubrity. However, while the Hôtel de Guénégaud was certainly a wonderful candidate to become a historical monument, the building had largely fallen into disuse by 1962. Seeing this opportunity, the building was officially selected to become the future home of the Museum of Hunting and Nature in 1963. Finally, the museum's doors opened on February 21st, 1967 after the building underwent vast renovations and restorations. While the contents inside the Museum of Hunting and Nature are certainly unique and therefore on par with many places in Le Marais, the history of the building the museum resides in is another crucial example of the history of luxury and aristocracy in Le Marais.
After existing for 50 years, the Museum of Hunting and Nature eventually expanded into the neighboring 18th century mansion, the Hôtel de Mongelas, in 2007. Today, the Museum of Hunting and Nature largely exists in the Hôtel de Mongelas while the a private club revolving around a passion for hunting and nature exists in the adjoining mansion. While both the Hôtel de Mongelas and the Hôtel de Guénégaud may have very well been destroyed as Le Marais became more gentrified and modernized, these incredibly historic buildings were saved and now serve as physical reminders of Le Marais' past as a home to many wealthy aristocrats.
When walking through the halls of the Museum of Hunting and Nature, the building's aristocratic roots are starkly evident in both the décor and ornate design of the space. At first glance, the multitude of taxidermy animals dominate the space of the museum, however, after taking a closer look at the rooms themselves many characteristics that seek to preserve the history of the building can be observed. For instance, the antler chandelier hanging in one of the exhibition rooms in the museum both commemorates the aristocratic tradition of placing ornate chandeliers in many of the rooms in their mansions and compliments the larger theme of the museum. The upper class history of the Hôtel de Mongelas and the Hôtel de Guénégaud are also notably observed in the furnishings on the walls and ceilings of many rooms. The walls, often covered in paintings of creatures in nature, are covered in beautiful patterns and ornate trimmings and tapestries, suggesting that these rooms once held the belongings of French aristocrats. Today, items such as antique guns and stuffed exotic creatures occupy the space in these rooms, but the small details in the décor of the interior of the Museum of Hunting and Nature call back to a time when the two buildings were representations of French high society.
Today, those who visit the Museum of Hunting and Nature seem to be enchanted by the museum's contents as there is such a wide variety of items on display. From beautiful paintings to the infamous unicorn room, the Museum of Hunting and Nature attracts patrons of all ages and backgrounds. The Museum of Hunting and Nature combines science and history by placing such significant items from nature and the animal kingdom in a space with such a rich history. Through the telling décor of both the interior and exterior of the Hôtel de Mongelas and the Hôtel de Guénégaud and the many small details that reveal both of the building's aristocratic pasts, the Museum of Hunting and Nature serves as yet another reminder of Le Marais' historical role as a high society neighborhood.