Follow-up on “Collectionner” colloquium


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.

Exciting discoveries await at the “Collectionner la Révolution française” colloquium this week!


I am very excited and honored to be participating in the colloquium on “Collectionner la Révolution française” here in southeastern France this week. Talks start on Wednesday 9/23 at the Université de Grenoble and continue on Thursday and Friday in the magnificent surroundings of the Musée de la Révolution française situated high up in a mountain village called Vizille. (Ironically, it is an aristocratic chateau surrounded by sumptuous gardens, formerly owned by one of the richest families of France. Odd site for a collection in honor of the rabble-rousers who overthrew the monarchy!)

The line-up of speakers is dazzling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an international cast of speakers in all my years as an academic. Not only are some of the most distinguished French scholars and archivists coming here from all corners of this country, people are also coming from Italy, Russia, the UK, and Japan (as well as me, from the USA). Check out the program below, and stand by for highlights!

BTW: In revising my paper, I gave it a new title: “Y a-t-il de collection ‘innocente’? La politique identitaire des livres rares à l’Université de Notre Dame (Indiana, USA).” I’ve decided to share some reflections on what I learned by exploring the Rare Book holdings in French at ND last summer, and what it taught me about the university’s original involvement with the children of South Bend. Makes for an interesting contrast with more recent priorities.  Some of the other papers titles promise to unveil equally tantalizing secrets discovered through rare tomes held by the Tsar of Russia, among others. Who says reading old books can’t be fun!?

Colloque international
Collectionner la Révolution française
Mercredi 23 après-midi, jeudi 24 et vendredi 25 septembre 2015

Société des études robespierristes, IHRF- Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, CRHIPA-Université Pierre Mendès France-Grenoble 2, Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille

Mercredi 23 septembre (Domaine universitaire – Maison des sciences de l’Homme Alpes)

Session 1 / Qui sont les collectionneurs ? Entre notables et anonymes
Président de séance : Michel Biard / GRHis-Normandie Université
14h30 : Introduction : Michel Biard / GRHis-Normandie Université

14h45 : Alain Chevalier / Directeur du Musée de la Révolution française
Essai de répertoire raisonné des collections françaises d’objets révolutionnaires de 1789 à nos jours.

15h15 : Laurent Le Gall / Université de Brest
La Révolution en majesté : érudition locale et collection firent-elles bon ménage (1860-1914) ?

15h45 : Pause

16h : Raymond Huard / Université de Montpellier
Marcellin Pellet, républicain gardois et collectionneur.

16h30 : Serge Aberdam / Département de sciences sociales de l’INRIA
Collectionner les Billets de confiance révolutionnaires, approche anecdotique ou approche économique.

17h : Présentation du film La Révolution dans les cultures populaires édité à l’occasion de l’exposition temporaire Culture populaire et Révolution française XXème et XXIème siècles présentée au Musée de la Révolution française de juin 2013 à avril 2014.

17h30 : Échanges

20h : Dîner au centre-ville de Grenoble puis retour à l’hôtel Suisse Bordeaux 6 Place de la Gare, 38000 Grenoble

Jeudi 24 septembre (Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille)

8h45 Gare routière de Grenoble : départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Vizille
9h15 : Arrivée au Domaine de Vizille

Session 2 : Collections érudites, collections engagées
Président de séance : Alain Chevalier / Directeur du Musée de la Révolution française

9h30 : Tom Stammers / Université de Durham
Jean-Louis Soulavie : un collectionneur de l’histoire immédiate.

10h : Michela Lo Feudo / Université de Naples-Federico II
Champfleury collectionneur : cartographie d’une enquête entre Second Empire et Troisième République.

10h30 : Pause

10h45 : Jean-Marie Bruson / Musée Carnavalet
Le Comte Alfred de Liesville (1836-1885), collectionneur.

11h15 : Aurore Chéry / Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3
Collections, associations, expositions : stratégies royalistes pour le bicentenaire.
11h45-12h30 : Échanges

12h30 : Déjeuner au Musée de la Révolution française

Session 3 : Collections officielles et passions privées
Président de séance : Martial Poirson / Université Paris 8

14h : Yann Fauchois / Bibliothèque nationale de France
Constitution et signalement des fonds de l’époque révolutionnaire au département des imprimés de la Bibliothèque nationale (1790-1875).

14h30 : Yann Potin / Archives nationales, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine
L’impossible collection légale de la Révolution : les « séries révolutionnaires » des Archives nationales, de la section législative aux acquisitions autographes (1790-1834).

15h : Pause

15h15 : Martine Sin Blima-Barru / Archives nationales, Fontainebleau
L’archiviste, le collectionneur, le receleur ; les activités secrètes de Dubois, employé de la section législative des Archives nationales (1840-1844).

15h45 : Magali Charreire / Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3
Des enchères à la fiction : les collections de la Révolution française légitimées par un écrivain bibliophile romantique sous la monarchie de Juillet.

16h15-17h : Échanges
17h15 : Visite de l’exposition temporaire du Musée de la Révolution française : Rencontre avec Napoléon. Un empereur à cheval pour la postérité.
19h : Visite du Centre de documentation-bibliothèque Albert Soboul

20h : Dîner au Musée de la Révolution française
22h : Départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Grenoble Gare routière

Vendredi 25 septembre (Musée de la Révolution française-Domaine de Vizille)

8h15 Gare routière de Grenoble : départ de la navette réservée pour le colloque en direction de Vizille
8h45 : Arrivée au Domaine de Vizille

Session 4 : Circulations et usages à l’échelle du monde
Président de séance : Pierre Serna / IHRF-Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne

9h : Vladislava Sergienko / Université de Nice
La collection inconnue du Palais d’hiver à Saint Petersbourg : la correspondance des émigrés français acquise par le prince Lobanov-rostovski. Une passion ou un ordre du Tsar ?

9h30 : Guillaume Nicoud / Musée d’État de l’Ermitage, département des arts occidentaux, Saint Petersbourg, Russie
La Révolution au Palais d’Hiver : exposer la Révolution française dans l’Ermitage des Soviets.

10h: Andrei Sorokine et Elena Myagkova / Archives d’État Russe et de l’histoire sociale et politique, Moscou, Russie
La collection des objets et des écrits de la Révolution française aux Archives d’État Russe et de l’histoire sociale et politique.

10h30 : Pause

10h45 : Julia V. Douthwaite / University of Notre Dame, USA
Peut-on collectionner innocemment ? Les fonds de l’ère révolutionnaire en Indiana, USA.

11h15 : Katherine Astbury et Clare Siviter Université de Warwick
La collection de pièces de théâtre d’Amédée Marandet (1863-1924) à la bibliothèque de l’Université de Warvick.
11h45-12h15 : Échanges

12h30 : Déjeuner au Musée de la Révolution française

Président de séance : Gilles Bertrand / Université Pierre Mendès France Grenoble 2

14h : Antonino De Francesco / Université d’Etat de Milan
Quelques considérations sur l’historiographie de la Révolution française d’après l’exemple de la collection Alphonse Aulard à Harvard.

14h30 : Yoshiaki Omi / Université Senshu, Tokyo
La quête de l’univers de la Révolution française dans la collection de Michel Bernstein.
15h-15h30 : Echanges et conclusion : Gilles Bertrand et Pierre Serna

Pour tout renseignement durant le colloque n’hésitez pas à contacter Hélène Puig au 06 74 57 38 71.

From Prairial to Pop Culture: Day Seventeen. A link between Notre Dame and what revolutionary-era writer?


Clockwise from top left: Abbé Barruel, Thomas Paine, Abbé Grégoire, Général Lafayette

This summer I am spending my days in the Department of Special Collections at Notre Dame’s library, systematically making my way through 60-some of the most controversial-sounding titles of French books published during the French Revolution (of the 266 total). I am looking for clues about who read these books, what they liked, and when, as based on underlinings, marginalia, and any clues I can find on provenance; it is also interesting to learn about historical facets of book binding and illustration. The closest thing to being in a European library is being in a Rare Books room in the USA.
I am doing so in anticipation of the Vizille colloquium on Collecting the French Revolution in late September. It will be fun to show how the collection of such materials ended up here, in the hinterlands of north-central Indiana!
So far, I have found clues suggesting that some folks here at Notre Dame held one particularly controversial writer of the revolutionary age in great esteem. What writer might that be?
1. Thomas Paine
2. Général Lafayette
3. Abbé Barruel
4. Abbé Grégoire

Controversy and kitsch : The French Revolution of spring 2012

A recent trip to Paris convinced me more than ever that the Revolution is far from “Over” (with all due respect to François Furet). Consider the demonstration held in my neighborhood (Bastille) on March 18, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “Front de Gauche.” The flyers were quite amazing for an American reader. It seems like the incendiary rhetoric and political discourse was lifted right out of a rather scholarly history book. Not only was the slogan an obvious linkage to ’89 (“Reprenons la Bastille!”), but the demands of organizers also built on French history in a rather erudite way. The flyer reads: “Pour une assemblée constituante! Dans l’histoire de la République Française, chaque fois qu’il a fallu rédiger une nouvelle Constitution, c’est une assemblée élue par le peuple qui en a été chargée. C’était le cas en 1789, en 1792, en 1848, en 1870-75, en 1946. La seule exception est la Constitution actuelle. Elle a été rédigée en 1958 par seulement quelques ‘experts.’ Dès le départ, la 5e République a voulu limiter la souveraineté populaire. Il est grand temps de tourner la page ! »
This call to arms mixes populist indignation with constitutional argumentation in ways that strike me as quintessentially French. You may disagree with their views, and indeed Laurence Parisot did so on I-télé and Europe 1 on April 1, calling the discourse “vulgar” and “old-fashioned.” (It may be relevant to note that Mme Parisot, president of the employers’ union MEDEF, is one of the wealthiest citizens of the Republic today.)
Unlike some of our American pundits, Mélenchon’s group at least has a pretty decent grasp of historical memory and constitutional procedure. In contrast, one might consider the latest word from our own defender of the Constitution, former VP candidate Sarah Palin, who wrote on March 29, “Despite President Obama’s claim in San Francisco that working-class Americans “bitterly cling” to guns or religion out of frustration, the truth is we cling to God not because we’re “bitter” but because there’s nothing better. And as for “clinging” to our Second Amendment rights and, in fact, to all of our constitutionally protected liberties…well, you betcha’, we do cling to them proudly.” Palin’s populism, calling for an armed militia in guise of an informed citizenry, would be ludicrous if it were not so dangerous.
Lest readers find this posting overly Francophile or elitist, I hasten to add a couple more reflections on how the Revolution lives on in France today. Both capitalize on the populist ferment of 2012, but with results that may make any student of ’89 cringe.
Consider Brumaire & cie’s play, « Révolutionnairement vôtre » now playing at the Theo Theatre, which claims to be a comedy about three aristocrats—a “mysterious nun,” a bumbling counter-revolutionary (chouan), and a British spy–trying to escape from the guillotine in 1794. Although the synopsis and four audience reviews guarantee “lots of laughs and relaxation,” and “proven historical references,” the handbill’s goofy pictures suggest a spectacle that trivializes Thermidor in ways that I cannot help but suspect are cringe-inducing. (But if you’re in Paris and have a chance to see it, please do write your own review here. “A Revolution in Fiction” will be happy to retract these wary words, if they are proven wrong.)

Or consider the musical comedy, “1789: Les Amants de la Bastille,” which is slated to open in September 2012. You may have already heard its catchy lead song, “Ça ira mon amour,” sung by Rod Janois. Is he photogenic? You betcha. Will this play have any redeeming political or historical value? On verra…
The most exciting development in this spring of discontent is the conference held at the Musée de la Révolution française (Vizille and Grenoble) on « La Révolution française et cultures populaires dans le monde aujourd’hui : mythologies contemporaines » (March 21-23), which reunited scholars from Japan, the Middle East, the USA, and France to share discoveries of this kind. Although I have no eye-witness accounts of Vizille to report, the videoconference session held on Friday 3/23 from San Antonio, TX was FANTASTIC! The two presenters from the USA (who spoke on the Marat of Vik Muniz and Waste Land [myself]; and the counter-revolutionary vampires of American TV [Dan Smith]), enjoyed a bracing and extremely lively dialogue with the very engaged international audience in Grenoble. We look forward to the volume in the works by Martial Poirson. More news on that to come!


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