Albert Kahn, museum and gardens
10-14, rue du Port
Tel: (33) 1 55 19 28 00
Opening days and times
From Tuesday to Sunday : 11a.m. to 6 p.m. (7 p.m. from May 1st till September 30th )
Last entrance 30 min. before closing.
Closed every Mondays, including public holidays.
Annual closure during Christmas and New Year holidays.
The museum presents "In search of Albert Kahn" which invites the visitor to understand how the personality of Albert Kahn built up to himself according to his history, his meetings, and currents of thought which fed him. It puts in evidence the area and the complexity of his work.
Métro: Boulogne – Pont de Saint-Cloud (Line 10 terminus).
Bus: 52, 72, 126, 160, 175, 460, 467 (Rhin et Danube stop)
Tram: Line T2, alight at Parc de Saint-Cloud stop.
Full price : 4 €, Half-price : 2,5 €
Free for children under 12.
Free for all visitors on the first Sunday of every month.
Annual pass : 20 €
Schools : 1 € per child
There are no museum-guided tours except for groups on reservation.
Albert Kahn was born in March 1860 in the Bas-Rhin département in Eastern France. His family belonged to a small community of Jewish tradespeople. His tenth year was marked by the Franco-Prussian war and the death of his mother. After Alsace-Lorraine was annexed to the German Empire, his family opted to retain its French nationality.
At the age of sixteen, he went to Paris, working as a junior clerk in the Goudchaux Frères bank. In parallel to his day job, he passed two Baccalauréats aided by a tutor a year older than himself, the philosopher Henri Bergson, then a student at the elite Ecole Normale Supérieure. At the bank, his professional skills (and in particular his ability to pick stocks that were about to rise) earned him successive promotions. After becoming a senior partner he was able to set up his own bank in 1898.
Albert Kahn was convinced that a knowledge of foreign societies encourages respect and peaceful relations among peoples. From 1898 onwards, armed with the necessary financial resources, he set up the series of bursaries he called Autour du Monde – "Around the World" – and founded the Chair of Human Geography at the Collège de France, plus the first centre for preventive medicine, a biology laboratory and two forums for discussion and research : the Société Autour du Monde, and the National Committee for Social and Political Studies.
In addition, realising that his era was to witness great changes, he began to build up an iconographic memory of societies, environments and lifestyles – many of them traditional – around the world. From 1909 to 1931, he commissioned photographers and film cameramen to record life in over 50 countries. The images were held in the Archive of the Planet, a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, the first industrial process for true colour photography, of which the museum now has the largest collection in the world.
The banker's ideal of cultural diversity is also visible in his gardens at Boulogne. Comprising horticultural models from a range of countries they are as much a part of his achievements as his various foundations.
The stock market crash of October 1929 dealt a fatal blow to his wealth and his plans. His property was confiscated and in 1936, the Prefecture of the Seine acquired the Boulogne estate, although Albert Kahn was allowed the use of it until his death in November 1940.
Museum and gardens
In 1968, the Conseil general of Hauts-de-Seine was granted ownership of the site and collections.
From 1986, the 4-hectares gardens were restored and a museum was set up by the Conseil general des Hauts-de-Seine to exhibit the collection via regular temporary exhibitions.
Since that time, annual public exhibitions highlighting a part of the collection have been organised.
Since 2006, visitors have been able to view over 1,500 images, 123 films and 80 slideshows via public access computer terminals : virtual gallery (Fakir). Three main navigation themes are on offer: an illustrated biography of Albert Kahn, a visit to the museum gardens, and an interactive world map, used as the starting point for viewing images from some of the 50 countries covered by Albert Kahn's reporters. In the coming years, the entire collection will be made available for consultation.
The four hectares (eight acres) of gardens, painstakingly restored and maintained in the spirit of their creator, show the different aspects of the art of gardening in the early 20th century.
Once passed doors of the exhibition gallery, visitors are in the Japanese parts: the old village, filled with temples, lanterns, stone paths edged, and the contemporary garden, a tribute to Albert Kahn’s life, with azaleas, and streams crossed by stone or timber bridges. Bamboo gates mark the entrance to formal French gardens, on the left, with a greenhouse, orchard, and rose garden, and to English garden, on the right (with green grass, false rock and cottage). Then, a forest of Blue Atlas cedars and Colorado spruces, whose low branches screen a small lily pond surrounded by a wild meadow. After crossing the meadow and passing through a group of slender birches, paths lead to a vast forest of conifers planted on steep, rocky soil, a reproduction of the Vosges Mountains near Kahn birthplace. Before 1936, when it opened to the public, this space devoted to world peace was visited only by dignitaries including various poets, philosophers (as Tagore) and Kings.
A major reorganisation of the museum into three sections (images, gardens and Japan) is scheduled in the years ahead.
Around the world
Discover the Archive of the Planet by clicking on a continent (include France) then a Nation.
Albert Kahn built up an iconographic memory of societies, environments and lifestyles – many of them traditional – around the world. From 1909 to 1931, he commissioned photographers and film cameramen to record life in over 50 countries. The images were held in the Archive of the Planet, a collection of 180,000 metres of b/w film and more than 72,000 autochrome plates, of which the Albert Kahn museum now has the largest collection in the world.
Hundreds of autochromes and few movies are available.
Autochrome was the first industrial process for true colour photography. When the Lumière brothers launched it commercially in June 1907, it was a photograhic revolution - black and white came to life in colour. Autochromes consist of fine layers of microscopic grains of potato starch – dyed either red-orange, green or violet blue – combined with black carbon particles, spread over a glass plate where it is combined with a black and white photographic emulsion. All colours can be reproduced from three primary colours.
Click below to access the map.