Do you have French ancestors? Perhaps, somewhere in the archives, is a patent for something your ancestor invented.
INPI - Institut National de la Propriété Industrielle - France's National Institute of Industrial Property has just made a huge database of patents available for free public search. In its own words - mostly -
INPI offers free access to a wealth of patents dating back to 1791.
Here you'll find detailed papers from the original records, from 1791 to 1871 including the corresponding images from 1791 to 1855 inclusive.
Eventually, the entire INPI heritage collection up to 1902 will be available.
The French archivist Camille Causse writes (my translation) -
Kept in Compiegne, this rare heritage collection traces the industrial history of France. Rare because no such large-scale collection is known to date: the proprietary archives of other countries have suffered many losses over time. These archives are, for some, the only trace left by too quickly forgotten inventors whose technological contribution was nevertheless important. They allow us to discover the roots of creation and thus to reconstruct the history of innovation over the last two centuries. This is, so to speak, the National Archive of the creative arts!
And a time travel dream. Because the INPI archive is a bit like Alladin's cave*. The treasures are infinite.
* In her blog, Camille writes "Ali Baba's cave", but I think that "Alladin's cave" is a more widely used expression in the English speaking world.
Detail of Poupinelle's diving suit.
Just a thought - is this the original of all those grey alien images?