The Musée d'Orsay is located in a former railway station, originally built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. The building, which displays art from the period of 1848 to 1914, can itself be considered a work of art. In 1979, the proposition by ACT architecture group was chosen out of six propositions. ACT respected the original architecture by Laloux, while reinterpreting it according to its new function as a museum.
The museum is organised on three levels. Its galleries are distributed on either side of the central nave on the ground floor, above which are the terraces in the median level that open to further exhibitions. The top floor is installed above the lobby, overlooking the rue de la Légion d'Honneur. The exhibition spaces of the museum are distributed across these three levels.
The collection was formed mainly by contributions from three national museums, the Louvre, Musée du Jeu de Paume and the National Museum of Modern Art. This amassed collection has separate sections, devoted to painting, sculpture, decorative arts or 'objects d'art', photography, graphic arts and architecture.