Looking at the business cards I received during the Grenoble & Vizille colloquium this past week conjures up the diverse viewpoints we heard from there: they are cut of cardstock in three different colors, textures, and sizes, printed in Russian, French, and Japanese. They recall people I barely met and may never see again: two middle-aged men and a young woman–funny, shy, gregarious, and remote. Their works, like the 17 others presented during the 30 hours (!) of the colloquium surprised and delighted the audience. We may have struggled to sit still for so long, but we nevertheless thrilled with the discovery of kindred spirits and felt honored to be included in such an erudite group in such beautiful settings.
It was a specialists’ meeting, in which four groups–historians, museum curators, archivists, and a few literary types like me–shared industry secrets, lists of promising materials, and histories of collections near and far. Although joined by a fascination with the French Revolution, there was a striking disparity of focus and engagement with the political principles at stake. Our views ranged from the militant’s impatience and desire for action to the conservator’s careful habit of protecting old things of the past.
I came away refreshed, with my optimism renewed. Learning to laugh at our mistakes, accept our differences, and welcome young researchers into the field: these are things I will remember. Many thanks, organizers, for bringing us together this September for an event that we will never forget.