Digital Archiving and Public Service of Paris Musées: Case study of Bourdelle Museum
Philippe Riviere, Paris Musees, France
Since January 2013, Paris Musées is an organization that brings together all different departments working for the 14 civic museums of the city of Paris into a single entity. The digital department of Paris Musées is in charge of all the digital projects of the 14 museums including website, social network, interactive display, application, etc. Besides that its aim is to include a digital vision into the museums projects. Thanks to an active global digital archiving strategy, the computerization and digitalization of the collections for all the 14 museums are going fast. The project of the online collection has been launched on the beginning of 2014. It will finish at the end of 2015 with the online publishing of the semantic and collaborative portal. At the beginning of July 2014, 22% of all the collections were in the database (ADLIB). Concerning the Bourdelle’s museum, 61% of the objects were computerized. Thanks to this work, the digital department and the educational services can work together to create different projects. The Bourdelle museum is the perfect example of this strategy. Before the 2013, the museum has no digital equipment. Nowadays, a website has been created, and a lot of projects will be finished at the end of 2014 to promote the artist but also the museum where was the permanent living and creation place of the artist (Web documentary, Accessibility tools, ...).
Keywords: Paris Musees / Bourdelle / Digital strategy / Digital archiving / Online / On site
Introduction to Paris Musées
Paris Musées is a recent organization. Until January 2013, municipal museums were directly managed by the City of Paris. Since then, Paris Musées has incorporated into one independent public institution which is consisted of the 14 City of Paris’ Museums, City employees in charge of museum management and collection monitoring.
This reform was decided by Paris mayor, Bertrand Delanoë to promote and enhance the City of Paris Museums’ network.
Paris Musées is an organization that brings together all different departments working for museums into a single entity entailing about 1000 employees.
This new entity, independent from the City of Paris’ administration, has an autonomous legal power like major National Museums in France. Meaning that Paris Musées can be more efficient on managing its own museums such as human resource, collection, exhibitions, restoration, education, digital media strategy, etc. Also the advantage of having a unique entity is to be able to implement a more coherent strategy therefore allowing economies of scale and better interactions between museums.
Three main missions of Paris Musées have been proclaimed by the City of Paris:
- Develop and highlight the museums’ collectionsthrough their computerization and digitization, research development, and programming various events, increases the awareness of the municipal collections
- Produce high quality exhibitions and publications to enrich Paris cultural wealth and international prestige.
- Develop and expand audience by leading an active educational policy and by giving more attention to visitors’ comfort and educational programs. Today, the City of Paris’ Museums have a global attendance of more than three million visitors; the objective is to boost this situation while expanding our visitors’ profiles.
The 14 City of Paris’ Museums are:
- Museum of Modern Art
- Balzac’s house
- Bourdelle Museum
- Carnavalet Museum – History of Paris
- The Catacombs
- Cernuschi Museum – Museum of Asian Art
- Cognacq-Jay Museum, Museum of 18th century art
- Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame
- Palais Galliera, Museum of Fashion
- Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum
- Petit Palais – Museum of Fine Arts
- Museum of Romantics
- Victor Hugo’s Houses (Paris / Guernesey)
- Zadkine Museum
In these museums, there are different typologies:
- Modern art museum (1)
- Fine art museum (3)
- Historic museum (4)
- Fashion museum (1)
- Asian art museum (1)
- Writer house (2)
- Single artist museum (2)
2- Digital Strategy of Paris Musées
The digital department of Paris Musées is in charge of all the digital projects of the 14 museums including website, social network, interactive display, application, etc. Besides that its aim is to include a digital vision into the museums projects.
Before 2013, the digital environment of the 14 museums was pretty under-developed. They all had a classic type of pad audio guide and only six of them had a website.
Our first mission was to analyze the needs of each museum and also to meet the staffs in each museum we would work with. Each museum had its unique situation such as topic, size and organization structure. Because of the difference, some of them were open to us and already aware the importance of digital strategy and projects; however the others had close-minded reactions to all about digital things.
– Online Strategy
To create a common grounding, our first action was to provide a website for every museum.
These websites have a classic organization: they present the graphic identity of the museum, the history of the collection, a selection of pieces from the collection, the latest news (exhibition, visit, etc.) and basic information (access and opening hours).
At the end of 2013, 7 new websites were created.
To strengthen the visibility of the museums on the web, we work with them on their presence on social networks, helping the small museums to launch their own pages, thinking with the big ones about diversifying their presence by going to others network etc.
Each museum develops its own editorial line to set apart from the others and to federate its own community.
At the end of 2013, one of the 14th museums (Museum of Modern Art) was part of the top 10 of French museums on Facebook.
– On site Strategy
The first year of Paris Musées’ Digital strategy for On-site Interactive display was an experimenting stage. But we keep trying to innovate our display and once we’ll have finished the very first service we will expand it to other museums belonging to Paris Musées.
About the mobile apps, we experimented/tried out different uses or technologies:
- a new approach of using tab for specific visits (teenagers from suburbs) in the Keith Haring exhibition (April to August of 2013)
- an educational approach based on precise observation in the Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum (available for iPad on ITunes)
- the use of the new Korean technology, TAPIR, for the exhibition “Paris 1900” (April to August 2014) to launch automatically the audio content when the visitor crosses an ultrasonic beam (still available for IOS and Android)
Some important interactive displays were developed with this vision of reusing the same technology:
- For a playful discovery of the history of Paris’s liberation at the end of august 1944, a multitouch table was created. The visitors can select themes, activate the chronology or discover on the map of Paris where the event took place and watch the videos linked.
- At Cernuschi Museum (Museum of Asian Art), a welcome interactive display is currently developed. On a large multitouch table, the visitor can see the activities of the day and can create his own tour based on his selection of objects or based on predefined typologies (alone, in couple, with friends / how long the visit will last : 30 minutes, 1 hours, 2 hours, etc. / interested in : ceramic, painting, sculpture, etc). The result of the personal tour will be available on printed paper or on his personal device.
3- Digital Archiving Project
One of the main purposes of Paris Musées is to finish the computerization and digitalization of the collections for all the 14 museums.
The computerization is done by the staff of each museum. Curators often need extra help to accomplish this very long task and for that Paris Musées hires people on short contracts to organize and type in all the data into the dataset.
Concerning the digitalization, Paris Musées used a public service delegation contract managed by the town council of Paris with a company named “La Parisienne de photographie”. This contract allowed the digitalization of 60 000 objects per year. The images can be used for non-commercial activities but not in HD quality.
Paris Musées also digitalizes which others companies specific funds which need more attention (damaged documents, OCR, etc…).
At the beginning of July 2014, 22% of all the collections were in the database (ADLIB). Concerning the Bourdelle’s museum, 61% of the objects were computerized.
|Museums||Collections||Notes in the database||% of computerization|
|Balzac||23 000||2 999||2 279||13%|
|Carnavalet||610 000||90 875||47 336||15%|
|Cernuschi||13 540||13 535||3 347||100%|
|Cognacq-Jay||1 240||1 240||846||100%|
|Galliera||243 000||57 365||13 463||24%|
|Leclerc-Moulin||15 000||4 106||621||27%|
|Petit Palais||45 056||45 056||10 208||100%|
|Victor Hugo||55 000||4 799||3 545||9%|
|Vie romantique||1 555||1 221||488||79%|
|Bourdelle||25 000||15 364||6914||61%|
|TOTAUX||1 043 938||221 196||82 133||22%|
The project of the online collection has been launched on the beginning of 2014. It will finish at the end of 2015 with the online publishing of the semantic and collaborative portal. The collection will be accessible to everyone through the portal system and every museum will be highlighted by editorial content. Each museum will also present the digital collection in a specific interface on their websites.
4- Online Public Service based on digital archive
Thanks to the work done in ADLIB by the curators, the digital department and the educational services can work together to create different projects for kids.
– Kids projects:
Paris Musées has created in 2013 and 2014 a specific platform gathering cultural numeric tools for 6 to 12 aged children. Those projects began with a special demand from the City of Paris, due to a legal reform of the school routine. Twice a week, children would have a 1h30 moments dedicated to leisure activities. In that sense, the City of Paris asked for the museums to provide educational tools to the children.
Paris Musées started two projects to fulfill that goal.
– Virtual Tour
The first tool, Muséosphère, is a virtual tour of 13 museums of Paris Musées’. In autonomy or with a Grown up’s help, children can visit 5 rooms in each museum. They can also have more information about pieces of art thanks to colored mascots indicating thematic trails. To help adults give a way to skim through these virtual visits in 360°, pedagogic documents are available with quiz, glossary and museum presentations. Texts, adapted to Youngers, give explanations about artworks but also architecture or famous people’s life. It’s a great way to prepare or to get further a visit in one of these museums.
Musée Bourdelle in Muséosphère showcases five of its rooms in 360°. This aims to make kids discover Antoine Bourdelle’s workshop and artworks, visiting his sculpture workshop or the hall displaying his monumental artworks. In this purpose, three themes are evoked: the portrait, the sculpting technique and the Greek antiquity, as a major part of his inspiration. Each artwork explained in these virtual visits is available in very high resolution.
– Serious game
The second tool, Mission Zigomar, is an educational game, inviting children to take part of the expedition with three young children through Paris. They have to find artworks from the museums, detained by Zigomar. This strange character believes that children shouldn’t have access to art because they don’t understand it. Gab, Hugo and Selim with the help of their coach Léo have to pass challenges through different themes to contradict him. Mission Zigomar is destined for children from 6 to 12. It brings notions about art themes and explanations of each piece of art they have collected.
In Mission Zigomar, artworks from Bourdelle Museum are featured in games and adventures to helps children acquiring knowledge with fun.
The portrait adventure: a self-portrait by Bourdelle is introduced to make kids understand two notions: first of all, the fact that a portrait can be a 3 dimensions artwork, and not only a photo or a painting, and second of all, that to make a portrait you can use a lot of materials. Kids have to associate the right tool with the right type of artwork, a chisel in this case.
The monsters adventure: a door-knocker with a Medusa head shape is presented to make kids understand the apotropaic value of a monster in our society: with its look, Medusa can freeze anyone and especially your enemies if you use it in a good way. With a series of well displayed mirrors, the look of Medusa is oriented to open a door and to allow kids to pass to another level.
5- Case Studies – Bourdelle Museum
Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) was a famous sculptor in France during the beginning of the 20th century. He lived in the Montparnasse district where a young and active artist community set up: Rodin, Giacometti, Matisse, etc…
More than museums, this place was the permanent living and creation place of the artists. Thanks to donation (in 1949) the place became propriety of the City of Paris. This house was surprisingly remained in its original state.
In Bourdelle’s sculpture studio, nothing has changed: the high glass roof, opened to the cold northern light, the mezzanine that allows one to look at the works from different angles, and even the walls, in the “colors of the time”.
The stove, the large wooden table assembled by Bourdelle’s father and the turntables are still in their original positions. The antique style molds, the Samurai armour and the medieval capital acting as a stand were all part of the artist’s environment.
© Musée Bourdelle / Philippe Ladet
The mission of Paris Musées is to preserve this place and modernize it at the same time (the architect Christian de Portzamparc added a resolutely contemporary wing).
A digital strategy will help to communicate and increase the renown of the artist, his collection and his workshop.
Different products have been created for the museum. They all answer to a specific need.
On this site, we decided on a very simple graphic, as simple and pure as the creation of Bourdelle can be. Three main lines were chosen: the discovery of the artist, the place and the collection.
The presentation of the collection is not directly the database itself but a selection of the most important and iconic objects in static pages. When the collection will be online, an API will allow us to propose direct interactions on the database.
During the closing of the museum (June 2014 to January 2015) for accessibility and restoration works, the digital team proposes to the museum team to work on a documentary to present the new rooms and the artist as he lived in there.
This short film (around 10 minutes) mixes contemporary views of the museum, digitalized photos of objects and old images of Antoine Bourdelle’s life to present the artist and the museum.
This will be used online but also to introduce the visit for the onsite visitors. It will be shown on a screen in the entrance hall of the museum as a starter point to offer a better understanding of the sculptor and his living place.
The accessibility works will enable disabled people to access to all the room of this old building, except one: a room called “the apartment” where Antoine Bourdelle used to welcome guest, to show his work for art dealer or to think about his creation. This room, a sort of period room, shows the state just after Bourdelle’s death. The organization of the room, the objects, and the decoration participate of a stage design that the artist created.
To allow non-ambulant person to see this room, we are creating an interactive display with:
- a virtual tour of this room where all the data of the objects can be see
- a historical explanation of this room
- a presentation of Bourdelle’s family (the different muses, the wife and the kids)
- Bourdelle’s art collection (antic, fine art, sculpture, etc,)
6- Conclusion and Future works
In a place like Bourdelle’s Museum, monographic museum and living place of the artist, people come to discover an artist and to be immersed in old days thanks to this exceptional building. The place, even with new wings, keeps the atmosphere of the early twentieth century.
The digital tools have to respond to different goals and to take into account all the specificities of the museum. Thanks to the very active digitalization of the collection, the digital products can be easily conceived to make available the discovering of the collection, the artist and the place.
The next project will be the launching of the museum on Facebook. It couldn’t have been done yet because of a lack of human resource.
Next year, a digital display for the Zadkine museum will be developed as well. As we are doing in the Bourdelle Museum, we want to put forward the artist, his life and his creations. We also want to show all the graphic art office of the artist to transport visitors back in time for maybe meeting the artist.
P. Riviere, Digital Archiving and Public Service of Paris Musées: Case study of Bourdelle Museum. In Museums and the Web Asia 2014, N. Proctor & R. Cherry (eds). Silver Spring, MD: Museums and the Web. Published March 1, 2015. Consulted .