The Special Exhibition of the City of Paris and the Department of the Seine occupied three large rooms in the right wing of the French section of the halls, at one of the main entrances to that section.
Their large windows hugged the bend in the outer gallery of the right front of the halls. This bend in the gallery was delightful; tall palms, with the long fingers of their palms open to the sky, softened the abruptness of the turn, wisteria, curled around the balustrade; beyond, a clump of shrubs, hazel, holly, oak, refreshed the atmosphere and threw a good smell of damp coppice into the hot mist that rose from the dusty gravel. Through the gaps in the foliage appeared bright pieces of the white façade of the Festival Palace. One could have thought one was standing in some shadowy arcade of a Moorish court. The large mirrored windows of the living room reflected the magic of a corner of nature combined with a creation: artificial and yet charming.
The decorative panel of the entrance, as well as the frieze which went round the salons and which represented, in imitation of old velvet, the coat of arms of the City of Paris, and those of the principal guilds of the Parisian trades, had been executed by M. Jambon, according to the drawings of M. Roger Bouvard, with the collaboration of M. Vincent, architect, inspector of the Exhibition of the City of Paris. The first two rooms followed one another in a row; the third formed a right angle with the first two. In the middle of these, elegant showcases helped to reduce the feeling of isolation given by the empty rooms in their centre; in the third, frames fulfilled this function. On the walls, photographs, tables, diagrams and documents of all kinds allowed for a rapid examination. At each corner of the first two rooms, white statues stood, softly veiled with green palms.
A happy silence usually reigned in these rooms, where the sound of footsteps was muffled by the thick carpet on the floor. In this atmosphere conducive to study, one liked to leaf through a few books at length or to examine the suspicious photographs of the anthropometric service, which one lingered to consider with an unconscious terror, made delicious by the reasoned certainty of its perfect security.
The City of Paris and the Department of the Seine could have disseminated the curious elements they grouped here in different classes; as it was understood, the exhibition of these two administrations allowed visitors, thanks to the arrangements adopted, to get a very clear idea of the various services which make up their enormous organism.
The organisation and installation of this Exhibition, which was very judiciously, clearly and completely presented, was mainly due to Mr. J. Bouvard, Director of the Architectural, Promenade and Plantation, Road and Plan Services of Paris, and General Commissioner of the Municipal Festivals and Exhibitions. Mr. Bouvard was assisted by Messrs. R. Falcon, head of the Secretariat of the Directorate of Architecture, Promenades and Plantations, and Roger Bouvard, a government-qualified architect, and delegate for the installations in Liege.
In the first room, a central showcase attracted attention. The Paris City Council was recalled here by voluminous books, luxuriously edited, containing the reports of the festivities organised by the Municipality of Paris on the occasion of some august visits or of events whose magnitude and particular significance were worthy of being highlighted and immortalised by the book for future generations. For example, there was the reception of LL. MM. the Emperor and Empress of Russia, of His Majesty Edward VII, of the learned explorers Nordenskiold and Nansen, the celebrations of Michelet's centenary and above all this grandiose national event on the occasion of Victor Hugo's centenary.
Other celebrations, such as that of Adolescence, inaugurating a new mode of rejoicing, both ancient and modern in beauty, were also recounted.
Alongside these books, glass cases showed the spines of numerous volumes by various authors, exhibited by the Historical Works Department and providing comprehensive information on the general history of Paris and the history of Paris during the Revolution.
Other books and documents, from the Cabinet of the Prefect of the Seine, informed the visitor about the numerous and very rich popular libraries of the great city.
The Fine Arts Department was represented in this room by decorative elements only. But outside, in the gardens opposite the salon, the First Funeral of Barias stood against the green background of a bed, and then, next to the rising path that led to the Fétinne bridge, a Victor Hugo, in flamed sandstone by Georges Bareau, a fragment of the great monument The Vision of the Poet, by the same sculptor, stood out.
But let us return to the salon. The statues we have already mentioned in describing its general appearance and which softened the hardness of the angles of the first two rooms, were La Charmeuse, by Michel Béguine, La Source, by Causse, Lully enfant, by Gaudez, L'Echo des Bois, by Plé, and a delicious evocation of early adolescence full of emotion and freshness. Le Premier Frisson, by Roufosse.
On the walls, engravings and etchings reproduced decorative panels by Gervex, J. P. Laurens, Bonna, Besnard, Puvis de Chavannes, etc. Next to these and on shelves placed against the walls, the Education Department had exhibited many remarkable works by students. There were not only charcoal drawings from nature and from the antique, but also works by students from special schools: application of Fine Arts to industry,
arts and industry of furniture, books, iron and wood.
The second room, to which one had immediate access, was especially rich in documents, manuscripts, diagrams, reproductions, tables, maps, etc.
In the middle, a star-shaped display case showed, on velvet backgrounds, the badges and sashes of the Municipal Councillor of Paris and the General Councillor of the Seine, as well as medals relating to the City and the Department, signed Bottée, Bovy, Chaplain, Degeorge, Dupuis, Lagrange, Levillain, Merly, Prudhomme, Roty, and executed by the Fine Arts Department.
The walls of the first room were covered with documents. Various information was given on the hygiene service and on the service of architecture, promenades and plantations, the road system and the map of Paris. There were plans and views of the main municipal establishments, the main avenues and promenades, squares, streets, quays, etc., of Paris, in photographs, paintings and charcoal drawings by Pierre Vauthier, all of which completed the map and atlas of Paris.
The Water and Sanitation Department (spring water, sewers, drainage) was followed by the Paris Works Department, with plans of machines for making wooden paving stones, watering barrels, and the plan of the Metropolitan Railway, which showed us the interesting underground works under the squares and streets and under the Seine.
The other documents completing the Exhibition in the second room were of less general interest. They related to the services of the Assistance publique, the Mont de Piété, the asylums, prisons, etc., falling within the remit of the Conseil général de la Seine.
The third room was occupied entirely by the General Service of the Prefecture of Police.
Among the various services of the latter, that of anthropometry or judicial identification attracted the visitor's attention above all. Although it had very close links with the miscellaneous facts of the popular papers, the sensational feuilletons of their ground floor and the melodramas of the Ambigu genre, the veracity of the documents it exhibited caught the most blasé visitor. A large wall album, small albums, a demonstration model, research albums containing LOOO profile or frontal photographs of recidivists, grouped heads worthy of entering some collection of that strange physiologist Lombroso.
Further on, a colour photographic enlargement, initiated the discovery of a murderer by comparing the fingerprints left at the scene of the crime by bloodstained fingers. The examination of this document provoked an instinctive thrill; many had never been so close to the full detailed horror of a crime. Next to these documents was a display case containing the photographic and measuring equipment used by the Forensic Identification Service.
The municipal laboratory showed the apparatus for the analysis of liquors and foodstuffs, the toxicology laboratory, a mercury tube and apparatus for the extraction of blood gases and the analysis of gases.
In the centre of the room, 96 mobile boards on 3 pivots fixed to the floor were covered with photographs _ relating to the various services of the.Préfecture de. Police. Qn y remarquait de nombreuses vues d'hôtels de police, d'hôtels de préfets, des sapeurs-pompiers, des gardes, républicains, des gardes municipaux en uniforme, dans l'exercice de leurs diverses fonctions. The explosives service was represented by a photograph of a car used to transport the devices, by a scene showing us the opening of these in special barracks, etc.
One also noticed, for the picturesque nature of the documents they exhibited, the service of the inspection of traffic and transport with omnibuses, taximeters, tramways, surveillance of the Seine, floating docks, etc., and the service of the inspection of the halls and markets. The latter reminded us of the Belly of Paris, of the very special life of the market halls and markets, from the arrival of the market gardeners from the suburbs in the cold, grey dawn to the lovely bustle of the morning.
One could see, in photographs, various benches selling fish, poultry, butter, cheese, then again the forts of the market hall, merchants of a very picturesque character, then finally, these pretty markets: "apple market, flower market", whose delicious aroma evoked pleasure after all the louche and horrible vision floating, like a bland red mist, above the documents relating to the judicial service.
Such was this exhibition of the City of Paris and the Department of the Seine. An admiring astonishment seized the visitor in front of this enormously complicated machine which is the administrative service of one of the greatest cities in the world - a service of which we were shown the smallest cog in a wonderfully complete picture.
But in addition to the organisation of these exhibitions, the City of Paris had also undertaken to show its initiative in another field, where it can be said at once that it was a triumph.
We are referring to the marvellous and decorative gardens that were designed and created in front of the Great Hall by Mr. Vacherot, gardener of the City of Paris and head gardener of the French Section. The plants used to form the beds of these gardens were all brought to Liege from the horticultural establishments of the City of Paris.
These salons were relaxing and instructive to visit. Their exterior décor of greenery of a captivating beauty charmed you. Then, fertile in varied impressions, this general grouping of the various services of the great City constituted a section of particular interest in the general participation of France.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905