Because of the deep ties between Napoleon III and Malmaison, taking part in the commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Emperor's death was an obvious choice: not only did the Emperor keep many memories of his childhood at Malmaison with Empress Josephine all his life, but he himself committed himself to the path of historical memory by buying the house and refurnishing it as it was in his grandmother's time.
When in 1861 Napoleon III, Hortense's son, bought the Malmaison estate from the Queen of Spain, he found an empty house. His first concern was to reconstitute the Empress's bedroom from authentic documents, then he had the ground floor flats restored and refurnished with the help of the Crown's furniture repository. In 1867, on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition, a retrospective exhibition was organised at the instigation of Empress Eugenie, who wished to celebrate Josephine at Malmaison and Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon: the final fittings were then completed, allowing the exhibition of paintings and busts recalling the memory of the Empress, as well as souvenirs from St Helena lent by private collectors.
In 1870, Malmaison, which was then part of the Domaine de la Couronne, was returned to the State, but troops were stationed there at the end of the war. In 1877 the estate was sold. In 1896 Daniel Iffla, known as Osiris, bought back the castle which was put up for sale. He then undertook the restoration of this ruined residence and offered the estate to the French State, which opened a museum there in 1906.
The museum's first collection is therefore made up of the furniture collected by Napoleon III and kept by the Mobilier National. In addition, numerous pieces relating to the two Empires entered the collections thanks to donors. Having become a national museum in 1927, its very rich Second Empire collections were transferred to the Château de Compiègne in 1953 where they formed the basis of the Second Empire Museum, while those relating to the First Empire were sent to the Château de Fontainebleau in 1984 to create the Napoleon I Museum. From then on, Malmaison's vocation focused on the consular period and on Empress Josephine.