Collections of objects from the French Revolution were the topic of discussion, as a modern-day collection of French Revolutionary scholars gathered in Grenoble and then at the Musée de la Révolution française in Vizille, nestled in the Alps. A blog space is far too short to give this fantastic conference full justice but the programme can be found here, and hopefully the ‘actes’ will be published:
The first afternoon opened with an introduction from Michel Biard, who was followed by Alain Chevalier’s paper which gave a very useful overview of the French Revolution collecting habits, from 1790 to the present day. Laurent Le Gall and Serge Aberdam’s fascinating papers relied heavily upon regional collecting practices and scholarship, whilst Raymond Huard concentrated upon the collector Marcelin Pellet’s republican influences in the construction of his collection.
After a spooky arrival at Vizille which was bathed in fog, the second session ‘Collections érudites, collections engagées’ got underway. Tom Stammers, who we were lucky enough to have speak at the Revolutionary Researchers Study Day in 2014, spoke about Jean-Louis Soulavie, and his collecting habits during the Revolution, especially papers which could later be helpful for him in the changing political tides. Michela Lo Feudo was concerned with how Chamfleury’s collection had been dispersed, and proposed alternative notions of collection, such as that of novel writing. Jean-Marie Bruson then spoke about the Count Alfred de Liesville’s collection which was instrumental in the Musée Carnavalet’s holdings. Aurore Chéry then gave a great paper on the modern royalist collections, their activities since the bicentenary, and questioned the ethics of these collections.
The afternoon focused on the institutions of the Bibliothèque nationale de France with Yann Fauchois’s paper, and the Archives nationales with the archivists Yann Potin and Martine Sin Blima-Barru. All the speakers highlighted the difficulties of classification of the Revolutionary collections, most amusingly and disbelievingly in Martine Sin Blima-Barru’s paper on Dubois who was employed by the Archives nationales in the nineteenth-century and stole many documents to collect their signatures, which after being divided, were re-collected by the Archives nationales. Magali Charreire finished the afternoon with a paper which would have attracted many Revolutionary Researchers, on Pixerécourt, Nodier and Lacroix.
The final day saw the collections become international. Vladislava Sergienko, Guillaume Nicoud, and Elena Myagkova all spoke about the intriguing Russian collections and archives of the French Revolution, including their classification, division and how the French Revolution was understood through the Russian Revolution. Then the focus became Anglophone, with Julia V. Douthwaite asking whether one can collect innocently, especially for an American institution which receives patronage or has an ideological aim, after which Kate Astbury and Clare Siviter gave a paper on the Marandet Collection at the University of Warwick and how it can be used online. The afternoon finished with historiographical collections, with Antonio De Francesco speaking about Harvard University’s collection of Alphonse Aulard’s works, and Yoshiaki Omi’s paper on the Michel Bernstein collection in Japan.
In all, it was an enthralling conference which created much discussion and debate!