The Radium Institute consisted of two laboratories. One was dedicated to the research on radioactive rays under the supervision of the University, while the other concentrated on biological and medical studies under the tutelage of the Institut Pasteur.
Henri-Paul Nénot (1853-1934), the architect of the well-known Sorbonne, oversaw the project. The buildings were classical in shapes, but the laboratories were modern and well fitted. Marie Curie settled in the Curie Pavilion in 1915.
Inside the laboratory, the director Marie Curie was provided with a personal area separated from the other rooms: a private entry, an office, personal physics and chemistry labs and a leisure room... The office of Marie Curie is the only genuine room that was preserved, along with her chemistry lab that was rebuilt after decontamination in 1981.
“Marie, to read her papers, gets to a very bright but plain, narrow room that a layman would hardly associate with the office of a famous scientist. An oak wood executive desk, a filing cabinet, bookshelves, an old typewriter, an armchair like a hundred others all convey a sense of anonymous decency. (…)”
The whole setting gave Marie Curie the comfort she needed to see her experiments through:
“This unique place of work and meditation, isolated from the rest of the world, in which she gathered and welcomed everyone she regarded as fellow workers whatever their field – be it advanced research, internship, or technical labor.” As told by Marcel Guillot, chemist at the laboratory from 1927.
Outside communications relied on the telephone located on the left-hand corner of the fireplace. At the time, technically, phone calls had to be forwarded by a mandatory switchboard operator. Hélène Bardinet filled this role at the Curie Laboratory, while monitoring the entries and organizing visits.
Along with Marie Curie’s secretary, she played a great part in the laboratory’s life.
The two women supported the scientist’s work and they were capital to the organization of her activities.
Arthur Theallier : Exposition curator
Under the supervision of :
Adrien Klapisz, collections curator
Renaud Huynh, Director of the Curie Museum and publication manager
Thanks to :
Natalie Pigeard, head of the historical resources
Anais Massiot, archivist
Xavier Reverdy-Theveniaud, museography task officer
Camilla Maiani, museum studies intern