Gypsum plaster has been used for thousands of years but remains a surprisingly modern material.


In geological terms, gypsum is a hydrous calcium sulfate, an evaporite mineral; its chemical formula is CaSO4 2H2O. Gypsum deposits tell the history of the Paris sedimentary basin, which has shaped the region's landscape. The gypsum quarry on the slopes of Cormeilles, roughly 10 kilometres north-west of Paris, had been a landmark for a century, but is currently being reclaimed, as mining continues underground.


After quarrying, the gypsum is crushed and fed to kilns. The gypsum is dehydrated by heating to about 130°C, to drive off the chemically combined water, and then ground to a fine powder, like plaster of Paris.

Gypsum plaster, in powder form, is ready to use by adding water. Its multiple uses include applications in building construction, decoration, casting and molding, agriculture, and water treatment. Industrial plasters and building plasters may include chemical additives, and are used to produce gypsum board, gypsum blocks and rendering materials.


Plasterers' skills, techniques and tools were traditionally handed down from one generation to another. While gypsum board (drywall) was introduced in the United States in the late 19th century and gained in popularity through the first half of the 20th century, French building construction, with lath and plaster walls and ceilings, remained largely unchanged until 1960. The introduction of plasters with longer working times, prefabrication, and mechanical (projection) plastering have changed how plaster is used in construction.

Heritage of Plaster Coatings in Île-de-France

This series (in French) examines plaster-rendered facades in the Greater Paris region

- Newsletter No. 1 January 2017 

- Newsletter No. 2 May 2017 

- Newsletter No. 3 September 2017

- Newsletter No. 4 January 2018 

- Newsletter No. 5 May 2018 

- Newsletter No. 6 February 2019


"Petit guide pour reconnaître et restaurer une façade en plâtre"

(Short guide on how to recognize and restore a gypsum plaster facade)

Produced by LRMH (Laboratoire de Recherche des Monuments Historiques) / French Ministry of Culture

This booklet reviews the history of gypsum plaster in the greater Paris area, how to recognize these facades, typical disorders, and how to restore them. (The cover shows the historical schoolhouse that was the first home of the museum in Cormeilles.)

Download guide


"Plâtre. sols et couvrements intérieurs. Du XIIIe au XIXe siècle"

(Plaster. Floors and interior renders. From the 13th to the 19th century)

Author: Christelle Inizan. Editions du Patrimoine, 2017. Download order form.


Sculptors have used gypsum plaster since ancient times; one of the most traditional casting techniques involves plaster molds that are broken after the casting hardens (the waste mold method). Plaster can also be sculpted directly by carving or modeling, or used with other media.


The Paris basin accounts for over 60% of gypsum deposits in France, and many locations—including Montmartre in Paris—continue to show traces of what was once a major industry.

There are also vestiges of gypsum activity in other regions of France—including Provence, the Pyrenees, Burgundy, the foothills of the Alps.

- Des fours à plâtre dans Paris (1765-1800) (in French)

- Les ports au plâtre. Le commerce du plâtre sur la Seine et l'Oise au XIXe siècle (in French)
- La grève des plâtrières en 1909 (in French)

- Placoplatre et autres histoires industrielles - en vente au musée (in French)

- Introduction : Placoplatre et autres histoires industrielles (in French)

- Les plâtrières du Val-d'Oise à travers les siècles  (Daniel Baduel) - Préface de Vincent Farion (in French)

- Les carrières à Taverny (Michel Dessanne et Lionel Urbain) - Préface de Vincent Farion (in French)

- La plâtrière d'Armoy (Haute-Savoie) (in French)

- La Renarde - Webfeuilleton. (in French)
A family investigation in 12 episodes, a journey into memory and territory. The story unfolds from the 19th century to the present day between Seine-et-Marne, Paris, Germany, and the Swiss Jura. The Plaster Museum is a partner in this series with contributions from Vincent Farion and Jacques Hantraye, providing historical insights into the history of plaster in Seine-et-Marne.

A l'ouest de la butte de Cormeilles-en-Parisis : les carrières souterraines de Montigny - La tuilerie de Cormeilles - La butte de la Tuile ou les carrières à plâtre de Montigny et d'Herblay  (in French) 


Learn more (in French):

Les Articles du Musée du Plâtre (published by the Museum, download):


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