Monaco Revue   
A peek inside Monaco's history

The Museum of Old Monaco is a blink-and-you-miss-it sort of place, tucked away as it is in a former residence on the narrow street of Emile de Loth, a short distance from the Prince's Palace. We've been by there a dozen times, and on every occasion we've had to run around in circles in the cobbled streets of the charming historic quarter of the principality trying to find the place.

It's worth the effort, though, to track down the institution.

Opened in 1974 by Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace, the Museum is run by the National Committee for Monegasque Traditions. This Committee in itself is an interesting organization.

In 1924, a few families who could trace their presence in the principality back many centuries got together and decided to preserve the knowledge and customs handed down by their fathers and

grandfathers (and mothers and grandmothers, too). That mission takes many forms, including organizing the Saint Devote festival, which comes towards the end of January and celebrates the patron saint of Monaco. The Museum is the most permanent representation of that effort.

So this is not a formal, professional institution. The men in blazers and official pins who hover around while you view the exhibits are not the typical paid, dour guards you may find in most museums. They are in fact Committee members, genuine Monegasques who are eager to dole out information about their country and history. If you speak French (as few of them speak English) you'll soon realize they are as much treasures as anything else in the Museum (especially as we discovered that if you smile sweetly enough, they may even let you get away with touching some of the exhibits!)

And considering the building in which the Museum is located is a former home donated by a local family, a visit to this Museum truly takes you into the bosom of the Monegasques.

Included in the displays are an archbishop's ermine robe, military uniforms and furniture donated by Monaco families. Among items donated by Prince Rainier are a silk-covered box in which his godmother, Queen Victoria of England, sent candies at his baptism, and a replica of the Palace.

The Museum of Old Monaco is open every Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..


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