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The Musée des Blindés ("Museum of Armoured Vehicles") or Musée Général Estienne is a tank museum located in the Loire Valley of France, in the town of Saumur. It is now one of the world's largest tank museums. It began in 1977 under the leadership of Colonel Michel Aubry, who convinced both the French military hierarchy and the local political authorities. Started 35 years ago with only a few hundred tracked vehicles, it has become a world-class collection which attracts visitors interested in the history of multinational tank development as well as professional armor specialists. From the very beginning, Colonel Aubry had made it a key policy of the museum to restore to running condition as many historically or technically significant vehicles as was feasible.
The museum has the world's largest collection of armoured fighting vehicles and contains well over 880 vehicles, although the British Tank Museum has a larger number of tanks. Because of shortage of space, less than a quarter can be exhibited, despite the move to a much larger building in 1993. Over 200 of the vehicles are fully functional, including the only surviving German Tiger II tank still in full working order. It often performs in the spectacular armor demonstration for the public, called the Carrousel, which takes place in the summer every year. Saumur was the traditional training center for cavalry for over a century but now holds the current Armoured Cavalry Branch Training School which is entirely dedicated to training armor specialists. The tank museum had its early origins in a study collection. It is still a State institution funded by the Army, but it is managed by the Association des Amis du Museé des Blindés which publishes a substantial yearly magazine and encourages membership from the public. There is also a separate traditional horse cavalry museum in the town of Saumur.
Armoured vehicles are presented in 11 themed rooms. This section gives the highlights.
All experimental French military vehicles where development has been abandoned are kept here. The vast storage rooms are only accessible to special guests. There is an enormous library, archiving the records of the history of French armour. The museum was renamed after General Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne, the creator of the French tank arm.