These public meters were a great instance of accessible measurement standards.

This is one of two remaining meter standards installed in sixteen locations around Paris from February 1796 to December 1797. The intent was to make official standards accessible at all times so that anyone could evaluate their own measuring sticks. This marble meter is still in its original home at 36 Rue Vaugirard, across from the Luxembourg gardens and facing the French Senate. Driving the van across Paris, I wondered how we would get close enough to carry the dolly and tracks and other equipment. We decided to double-park for just a few minutes, and indeed two Senate guards came over when we started unloading the van. We explained our filming and they became quite friendly, chatting a few minutes before glancing at our permit and letting us leave the van double-parked as long as we needed.

Passersby don't often notice the mètre-etalon tucked in the corner of an arcade. But once we started taking pictures, other people did too. The elegant design of the mètre étalons is by Jean Chalgrin, who would become the primary architect of the Arc de Triomphe, 10 years later.