January 15, 2001 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on January 15, 2001.
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I am grateful to Bob Kreiser, whose posting on the H-France econference about the new online Musée Cluny jogged thoughts in me, both particular and general, about the digitization of "museums" and "libraries". Herewith:
The new online Musée Cluny / Musée National du Moyen Age, at,
is very much worth a visit, for anyone involved in museums, libraries, French history, or digital information generally.
The Musée Cluny has long been one of France's most important centers of Medieval culture, very interestingly at once a center for Renaissance and Medieval and even Roman history, and for any Paris visitor a must stop on "The Latin Quarter Tour".
The Roman baths were here, and thus the social and political and to a great extent even the governmental and administrative center of classical Roman Lutetia (1st - 3rd c. C.E.) -- before late - Empire weakness and atrophy, and barbarian invaders, drove survivors entirely to the "island on the Seine".
In the end of the 15th century, then, the building was constructed as the Paris residence of the monks of Cluny under -- balletomanes take note -- "Jacques d'Amboise", their abbot of that era (1485-1510). It is a wonderful old structure, one of the few of the period in Paris to have retained its original layout and surrounding gardens:
Finally, to complete the "Renaissance / Medieval / Roman" trivium available at the Musée Cluny, the building's early 19th century occupant, Alexandre du Sommerard, assembled one of the country's first great collections of Medieval art -- this was the era of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831), and of the Romantic Era's general rediscovery of much of Europe's history, including its so - called "Dark Ages" -- which became the core of the current Musée Cluny collection.
So the little Musée Cluny has it all, or a great deal of it, for anyone interested in the earlier bits of French history. Plus, it is a charming building, located on a convenient central - Paris site, quiet and unique at least compared to the Latin Quarter chaos and Boulevards S. Germaine and S. Michel congestion which surround it.
The new online site for the Musée Cluny presents all of this, beautifully. There is sumptuous illustration throughout, with attractive layout and backgrounds. The home page offers:
* Le musée: the collections, the Roman Baths, the museum's Renaissance building itself, its new and extraordinary "Medieval Garden" project, a chronology, and a museum / garden plan -- so in a single fell swoop a W3 user can take a pretty complete tour which shows not only what the museum is like, for an eventual visit, but also in broad strokes the substance of the history which it contains. Any student wishing to obtain an easy and interesting introduction to pre - Renaissance French history might very usefully be directed here.
* Activités: expositions and events, for adults and for children -- every two years a new major exhibit, for example "Trésors médiévaux de la République de Macédoine" in 1999 and numerous tours and workshops for adults alone, children alone, and families together. Our own kids learned bookbinding at the Musée de l'Imprimerie, in Lyon, and now maybe one springtime - sans - kids we ourselves will learn calligraphy at the Musée Cluny.
* Informations: there is a bookstore -- "centered on the Medieval Era, we offer a selection of books, including books for children, also CD's of Medieval music, video cassettes, CDroms, reproductions (of jewelry, scarves, sculpture casts...)" -- some of my own best starts on specific themes in French history have been made browsing one of France's excellent museum bookstores...
* Site jeunes: the Musée Cluny offers an entire interactive online site on French things Medieval, just for (young) kids -- "Un clic sur le lapin et tu retourne à la page précédente" --
* Boutique: there is a link to the culturally - remarkable "Museesdefrance.com : les Cadeaux d'Art sur Internet" online store -- complete with "secure server", "club discounts", "shopping basket", "online order tracking",
-- so now from "Le Louvre museum" you can buy your very own "Torso of Queen Nefertiti, the beautiful wife of Akhenaton" -- only 940 FRF / 124,20 USD -- and ship it to someone you love...
* Abonnez - vous à la lettre d'information: one of the greatest assets of French library and museum membership is the excellent institutional "newsletter" regularly disseminated by most to members -- in the case of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France their newsletter is a regular reminder not only of excellence in printing and presentation but also of all that a library might be in terms of outreach and community involvement, and I would expect the newsletter of the Musée Cluny to be as good.
* Envoyez une carte postale électronique: it's free! (for now) -- but it also doesn't work (for now) -- four beautiful tapestry images, from the Musée's famous "La Dame à la Licorne", plus a nice book illustration and an image of some remarkable goldwork, all of which you can send to friends from the online site just by "tap'n clique" -- although as of this moment the results come out blank, testing on Netscape and IE browsers and on AOL...
-- and finally, on the Musée Cluny site, most interestingly and "very French",
* Prochains concerts de musique médiévale:
-- and previous concerts have included --
"Noëls -- Un répertoire inattendu de Noëls médiévaux du XIIe au Xve siècle"
-- makes you wish you were in Paris...
Now a small, more general, note:
My wife and I will be taking two "young adult" scientists on their first trip to the famous "hands - on" Deutsches Museum in Munich next Christmas. Our eldest is 21, an engineer who gradually is becoming interested in things like "MEMS / MicroElectroMechanical Systems", which are increasing in complexity, shrinking, and even being introduced into the human body -- those little robots which will swim through your bloodstream and clean out all the bad stuff -- and inexorably are coming to replicate and even replace the various miracles of biology.
And his brother is 19, a biologist who gradually is discovering "Neuroscience", where algorithms modelled originally on human brain activity -- "Switch the lights 'on' then 'off' then 'on' again, Professor Von Neumann..." -- began some time ago to point back toward the body ("feedback"), and increasingly now point in both directions ("neural networks", plus various "things fuzzy"...).
And our two kids -- or at least people in their respective disciplines, bioscience and mechanical engineering -- now say that those two subjects, which formerly were so different in concern and approach as to be considered nearly antithetical, nowadays find their traditional definitional barriers breaking down, and their efforts even combining.
Imagine: "MicroElectroMechanical Systems", which clean your blood -- inside you after you have swallowed them in a little pill -- governed by algorithms patterned on your own brain's "neural networks"... it's a new world...
So, if engineering and biology can do this, now -- drop the old barriers and blend together, in all sorts of un - traditional ways -- how about museums and libraries?...
Our family "engineer" always has loved the "hands - on" aspects of museums, when these have been available. He grew up near San Francisco's very "hands - on" "Exploratorium", and he loves the working machine exhibits at the Science Museum in London. His brother, our "biologist", also has loved anything "hands - on" since he was very small, in his case about animals -- he has put many of his few years into volunteering at local nature centers and at our city zoo, and into complex peer - level relationships which he maintains with our two dogs.
So if all the textual and visual information offered by museums gradually becomes available via the World Wide Web -- as the already - excellent online sites of the Science Museum and the Deutsches Museum,
and many other museums all around the world, and now Paris' excellent Musée Cluny / Musée National du Moyen Age site,
all attest -- and if these all become linked to one another and to the great and growing number of online "digital" and other libraries, what is left that is not online, for libraries and museums to offer?
And no I don't know what part of what I am saying here is irony and what part sincerity -- I'll let you know in about 10 years, when we see what part came true -- but in the meantime at least bear with me / think about this / "jouez le jeu" -- current trends do seem to be leading in these directions...
It is the tactile experience, the "hands - on" stuff, which always has attracted our own two children the most, in any museum. Bored adults may spend hours ambling past dimly - recognised oil paintings hung on gallery walls -- poor lighting and security measures and museum guards all won't let you get close enough even to tell whether they are oil, much less touch them, so they might as well be "digital" -- but children won't put up with this, children need the "tactile".
Perhaps once the digital revolution is over, and all the museums are online and all the book texts are digitized and all the books are hermetically sealed - away into preservation storage facilities, the "museum" and "library" places which do survive and prosper will be the "hands - on exhibits" and the "children's rooms". Looks like that's the current trend, anyway.
But I'll know more myself in December. In the meantime I hope everyone here will enjoy the "online Musée Cluny". And, at least until everything is digital, do still try to get to Paris to see the "real" thing there, as well: it is a beautiful old building - within - a - garden -- a sane island in the middle of the Latin Quarter madness -- and as of last summer, anyway, hoardings mounted on its encircling walls proclaimed the imminent construction of the large and decorous "medieval herb garden" on the grounds within -- let's see them digitize that!
-- and yes, I do know that someone has been teaching computers to smell and be smelled (I suppose kids like our own two, the biologist and the engineer, working together) -- but those particular algorithms are a long way, yet, from "medieval herb scents" and the heart of Paris.
So, Happy 2001.
FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071 - 5916 * | FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic | journal published since 1992 as a small-scale, | personal experiment, in the creation of large- | scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler. / \ Any material written by me which appears in ----- FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for // \\ any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me --------- credit and show my email address, and, b) it // \\ isn't going to make them money: if it is going to make them money, they must get my permission in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. Use of material written by others requires their permission. FYI France archives may be found at http://infolib.berkeley.edu (search fyifrance), or http://firstname.lastname@example.org/ (BIBLIO-FR archive), or http://listserv.uh.edu/archives/pacs-l.html (PACS-L archive) or http://www.fyifrance.com . Suggestions, reactions, criticisms, praise, and poison-pen letters all will be gratefully received at email@example.com . Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler, all rights reserved except as indicated above.
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