Wrapping up

Posted August 6, 2009 by marystevens
Categories: Personal

As anyone who was once a regular or occasional reader of this blog will have noticed it’s been a very long time since I posted anything here. I had initially hoped that I might keep it open as a way of following ongoing developments in France, but moving on to a job and moving my research interests forward meant that I was no longer really keeping up with the debates, let alone finding time to blog about them.

Some of my PhD work, into which this blog fed, has started to appear in print. An up-to-date list of my publications is available here. Do feel free to contact me if you have trouble accessing any of these. I will also in the not too distant future be depositing my thesis with UCL’s open access e-prints repository, so anyone will be able to download it. I’ll post an update here with the link when that becomes available.  In the meantime hard copies are available on good ol’-fashioned inter library loan from UCL and the University of London Library, and the Mediatheque at the CNHI. I’m also happy to send a .pdf on request (as long as you reassure me that it’s only for personal use and you won’t be forwarding it, copying it or generally abusing my good faith).

If you’d like to know more about what I’ve been doing since February 2008 please check out my personal website.

Looking back on it now, I realise that in writing this blog as a research tool for myself, I unintentionally created my own archive. This is one reason why I’m leaving it up, so that visitors to this site interested in researching how issues of identity, difference and belonging were fought over in France in 2006-7, and how in particular how these battles were mediated through the cultural heritage sector, can continue to find my clippings and musings a useful resource. Again, should you find that links to any documents or reports have expired, please feel free to contact me – I’ll probably have a saved copy. I can’t promise the same for websites I’m afraid.

And to everyone who helped me negotiate a path through this terrain, and made use of these pages to challenge, engage and encourage me, sincerely, merci.


Dr Stevens (pending minor corrections)…

Posted February 1, 2008 by marystevens
Categories: Personal, PhD stuff

Tags: ,

So I passed! Here I am in the pub shortly after my viva, holding my thesis (check out all the post-it notes…).


I’m not sure I prepared myself in the best possible way for the viva since at 10am on the same morning I was still editing my article from the Paris conference I attended in January (the deadline for submissions for contributions to the publications of the proceedings was the same day and, unusually, I had left it to the last minute). The viva itself was a surprisingly enjoyable experience. The examiners (Professor Charles Forsdick from Liverpool, French Studies and Dr Beverley Butler, UCL, Institute of Archaeology (Museum and Heritage Studies)) kindly put me out of my misery at the start and after that we just had a very interesting chat about my work. They gave me lots of helpful suggestions for things I might want to consider or bring out more when it comes to turning it into a book, which I feel encouraged to try to do. When they’d finished with their questions they sent me out for 10 minutes or so while they wrote up their report and then called me back in to say I passed with A1, which means no corrections (apart from typos).

For anyone interested in the viva experience I’m going to be contributing to a set of videos for the igrs research training site PORT where recent PhDs talk about their experience of the viva and of going for job interviews. Filming is scheduled to take place in the next few weeks and hopefully they’ll be up on line before too long (I’ll update this post when they are).

One of the things they were particularly interested in – and of which I didn’t make that much in my write-up – was this blog and the specific contribution it had made to the research experience. I talked about the inspiration, in particular C. Wright Mills‘ idea of the research file, and how it helped extend my presence in the ‘field’ into the virtual arena. Overall, they seemed to think that in an ideal world all researchers would be blogging, as a way of communicating their research to their peers and to the general public, and as a means to keep a kind of intellectual diary. Their enthusiasm has inspired me to find some way to carry on, although I suspect in a new form, as I think this blog has outlived its usefulness (as my failure to post over the last few months has amply illustrated). It also made me think that I would be interested in writing an article about blogging as a research tool in the humanties (and specifically in modern languages) if anyone has any suggestions for anyone who might be interested in publishing such a thing?

On Monday I start a new research project in the School of Library, Archive and Information Studies at UCL and since the project is a) not my own (I’m working as a post-doctoral research assistant) and b) involves a significant ethnographic component I’ll have to think very carefully about what I post. I will also be trying to juggle my own research and a blog may be a helpful way of me recording my ideas about this, as well as more general thoughts about museums/heritage industry (such as exhibition reviews or policy notes). Anyway, watch this space…

Paris conference: De l'imitation dans les musées, 5-7 décembre

Posted December 5, 2007 by marystevens
Categories: Conferences, Museums, Paris

I’m back in Paris for a few days for this conference. So far it’s got off to a very interesting start; the organisers have done a great job of setting out a clear framework and as a consequence I think we can look forward to some very thoughtful and theoretically interesting discussion over the next couple of days. It has also been good to see some familiar faces, and to put faces to some familiar names. I had a nasty fright this morning when I went to register and the person handing out the packs said “ah yes, you’re on this afternoon, no?”. In fact I’m on tomorrow (phew) in the 14h session (I’ll be on about 15h). It’s free to register, so venez nombreux if you’re in the area. If you scroll down and check out who I’m on a panel with you’ll see why I’m feeling distinctly nervous.

DE L’IMITATION DANS LES MUSÉES: La diffusion de modèles de musées, XIXe-XXIe siècles
Colloque 5-7 décembre 2007, École normale supérieure
29 et 45, rue d’Ulm, Paris
Département d’Histoire et Théorie des Arts
Entrée libre dans la limite des places disponibles
Contact et informations : musees.modeles@gmail.com

Mercredi 5 décembre

« Autour du modèle du Louvre »

29, rue d’Ulm, salle Jules Ferry

A partir de 8h45 Accueil

  • 9h30 Ouverture par BÉATRICE JOYEUX-PRUNEL (École normale supérieure) et ANNE-SOLÈNE ROLLAND (Musée du quai Branly / Université Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle)

MATINÉE / Modératrice : Hanna Murauskaya (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • 9h45-11h15 Introduction et méthodologies

Introduction par HANNA MURAUSKAYA

Le concept des transferts culturels, MICHAEL WERNER (CNRS / EHESS / CIERA)

Comment aborder la dimension spatiale de la diffusion des musées ? Une étude des logiques de localisation des modèles de musées à l’échelle régionale, ANNE HERTZOG (IUFM de Versailles-Université de Cergy-Pontoise)

  • 11h15-11h30 Pause
  • 11h30-12h30 Le Louvre et ses « petits homologues »

La genèse du modèle du Louvre, DOMINIQUE POULOT (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne / Institut Universitaire de France / LAHIC)

Le Louvre et les musées de province durant la période révolutionnaire, ANNIE HÉRITIER (Université de Corse)

APRÈS-MIDI / Modérateur : Dominique Poulot

  • 14h00-15h30 Musées nationaux en Europe

Rivalités et inspirations mutuelles des musées, à partir de l’analyse de la bibliothèque du musée national ukrainien de Lviv au début du XXe siècle, HANNA MURAUSKAYA

Le modèle muséologique en Bulgarie, GABRIELA PETKOVA-CAMPBELL (University of Newcastle, Grande-Bretagne)

Le « Musée bleu » : le modèle nationaliste des musées sous le franquisme (Espagne, 1939-1959), MARIA BOLAÑOS (Université de Valladolid, Espagne)

  • 15h30-16h00 Pause
  • 16h00-17h00 Transpositions de modèles

La diversité des modèles muséaux : le cas du musée des beaux-arts de Bruxelles (1773-1842), CHRISTOPHE LOIR (Fonds de la Recherche scientifique / Université Libre de Bruxelles)

La Tate Gallery à Londres et le Museo de Arte Moderno à Madrid, deux interprétations contestées et contestables d’un même paradigme : le Musée du Luxembourg à Paris, JULIEN BASTOEN (Université Paris VIII / Université de Zaragoza)

  • 17h00-18h00 Un modèle actuel ? Le Louvre à Abu-Dhabi

Le Louvre à Abu Dhabi ou la quête du cosmopolitisme, CÉLINE HULLO-POUYAT (Paris-Sorbonne Université Abu Dhabi)

Le Louvre à Abu-Dhabi. Exemple de musée universel ou de l’universalisation du concept de musée, FRANCESCA DE MICHELI (Université de Perpignan / Agence universitaire de la Francophonie)

Jeudi 6 décembre

« MusÉes, territoires, mÉmoires : de nouveaux modèles ? »

45, rue d’Ulm, salle Dussane

MATINÉE / Modératrice : Anne Hertzog

  • 9h00-10h00 Musées et ancrage territorial

Le musée de l’Agglo d’Elbeuf : identités et modèles, NICOLAS COUTANT (Musée de l’Agglo d’Elbeuf)

Conserver ou réanimer la Provence : Le Muséon Arlaten entre ethnographie et identité, VÉRONIQUE DASSIÉ (Université François Rabelais, Tours / LAHIC)

  • 10h00-11h00 L’Europe au musée

Le musée de la nation mis à mal : vacillement ou renforcement d’un modèle ? Des musées d’ethnologie et d’histoire nationales aux musées des cultures européennes, CAMILLE MAZÉ (Centre Maurice Halbwachs / ENS / EHESS)

Le musée, un modèle inusable en Europe ? ISABELLE BENOIT et BENOIT REMICHE (Musée de l’Europe, Bruxelles)

  • 11h00-11h30 Pause
  • 11h30-12h30 Musées identitaires

Le musée juif de Berlin : réconcilier innovations et traditions, JOHANNA HEINEN (EHESS / FU Berlin)

L’éthique des communautés contre les modèles : de l’écomusée de Georges-Henri Rivière au musée flottant de la baie de Ha Long au Vietnam, LYSA HOCHROTH (ICOM)


  • 14h00-15h30 Nouveaux musées des civilisations

Modératrice : Anne-Christine Taylor (Musée du quai Branly)

Musées de soi, musées des autres, BENOÎT DE L’ESTOILE (ENS / EHESS)

Le musée du quai Branly : une muséographie renouvelée, YVES LE FUR (Musée du quai Branly)

La création de la Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration (CNHI) : vers un nouveau modèle du musée de société ou la réinvention du musée d’histoire coloniale ? MARY STEVENS (University College, London)

  • 15h30-16h00 Pause
  • 16h00-17h30 Nouveaux musées d’histoire

Modérateur : Antoine Lilti (ENS)

Les réaménagements du Musée de l’histoire de France, ARIANE JAMES-SARAZIN et RÉGIS LAPASIN (Centre Historique des Archives Nationales-Musée de l’histoire de France)

L’évolution des musées d’histoire de la Seconde Guerre mondiale à l’exemple du Centre National Jean Moulin de Bordeaux, du Mémorial de Caen et du Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glane, HENNING MEYER (Université d’Augsburg / Université Michel de Montaigne-Bordeaux 3)
La disparition des musées d’objets et l’apparition des musées de société : les musées militaires partent en campagne, NINA GORGUS (Universités de Francfort et de Tübingen)

Vendredi 7 décembre

« De la TRansposition a la rÉinvention »

45, rue d’Ulm, amphithéâtre Rataud

MATINÉE / Modératrice : Anne-Solène Rolland

Diffusion et réinvention du modèle du South Kensington Museum 1 :

  • 9h00-10h00 Musées des moulages

Musées des moulages et protection du patrimoine : Regards croisés sur la France, l’Allemagne et L’Angleterre au XIXe siècle, ASTRID SWENSON (Cambridge University)

Inventions et réinventions du musée d’architecture, Londres – Paris – Liverpool, 1851-1887, ISABELLE FLOUR (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)

Diffusion et réinvention du modèle du South Kensington Museum 2 :

  • 10h00-11h30 Musées d’art et d’industrie

L’adaptation des exigences sociales et culturelles des musées d’art appliqué sous la troisième République aux fonctions patrimoniales d’aujourd’hui, SYLVIE ACHERÉ (Université Charles de Gaulle-Lille 3 / Musée des beaux-arts de Lille)

La réouverture du musée des arts décoratifs : analyse des nouveaux choix muséographiques, CAROLINE GIRARD (DRAC Basse-Normandie) et ÉMILIA PHILIPPOT (Réunion des Musées Nationaux)

Le musée national suisse : modèles muséaux et industriels, CHANTAL LAFONTANT-VALLOTON (Université de Neuchâtel / Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel)

  • 11h30-11h50 Pause
  • 11h50-12h50 Collectionneurs et musées : un modèle original

Les modèles du musée de collectionneur, ANNE-DORIS MEYER (Université March Bloch, Strasbourg / Musées de la ville de Strasbourg)

« Ceci n’est pas un musée » : le développement des fondations privées d’art contemporain en Europe dans les années soixante, JULIE VERLAINE (Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne / Université de Caen Basse-Normandie)

APRÈS-MIDI / Modérateur : Thierry Dufrêne (Université Paris X)

  • 14h15-15h15 Les défis des musées monographiques

Le musée national du message biblique Marc Chagall à Nice : entre filiation du modèle théorique et création d’un musée monographique inédit, NATHALIE SIMONNOT (CERMA, CNRS / Ecole nationale supérieure d’architecture de Nantes)

Quel modèle pour les musées littéraires ? YVES GAGNEUX (Maison de Balzac)

15h15-16h15 Renouveaux dans l’art contemporain

Künstlermuseum : participation d’artistes à l’aménagement du museum kunst palast de Düsseldorf, JEAN-HUBERT MARTIN (Direction des musées de France)

Montrer une collection internationale d’art contemporain : un ou plusieurs modèles ? La place des différents pays sur les cimaises du Centre Georges Pompidou, de la Tate Modern et du MoMa, ALAIN QUEMIN (Université de Marne-la-Vallée / Institut Universitaire de France / LATTS, CNRS)

  • 16h15-16h45 Pause
  • 16h45-17h45 Utopies ?

Le Musée Pompon, un musée éphémère des années trente, CLAIRE MAINGON (Université d’Evry-Val d’Essonne)

Le musée d’art contemporain et le modèle alexandrin : exemple de l’idée non réalisée de Jerzy Ludwiński du musée d’art actuel, TOMASZ DE ROSSET (Université Nicolas Copernic de Toruń, Pologne)


Finished! And thank you!

Posted November 28, 2007 by marystevens
Categories: Personal, PhD stuff

I’ve found it quite funny that the last thing I found time to post was a short article about how dificult it was keeping up with all the media coverage. Needless to say, shortly after that it become almost impossible to keep up with anything at all. I had thought that when writing up it might be useful to share my experiences online. In fact the last thing I wanted to do after writing all day was write anything more. When the deadline drew near I found that what worked best for me was just to put my head down, cut myself off and get on with it.

But yesterday I took all 357 pages, or 96,400 words (not including the bibliography and appendices to the binders). I’ll be handing in on Friday. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet; I can’t quite believe that I don’t have to check another reference, or rewrite that passage just one more time. At the binders they have some samples to show you what a bound thesis looks like with titles such as ‘Three years to do it and I still left it to the last minute’ by I.M. Tired. Obviously, it’s a pretty lame joke, but it still made me smile in a tired, wan sort of way. There was something absurd about correcting cross-references til 2 in the morning and rewriting the conclusion the day before handing in when I’d had such a long time to get it all done. But I honestly don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard for anything, not even the madness of my undergraduate finals (which involved sitting 95% of my degree in about 4 weeks). We celebrated with a bottle of champagne that Eiffelover had been saving for just such a special occasion, from the year I first started university no less (which, to my horror, is now sufficiently long ago for it to qualify as ‘vintage’!).

The final stages were made much easier by Patrick Dunleavy’s Authoring a PhD (2003) stumbled across by chance on a library shelf and by far the best guide of its sort I’ve ever come across. I think what’s so good about it is that it’s pitched at the right level and sticks to the point. It’s also clearly geared towards the humanities/social sciences, unlike a lot of the texts out there. The page and a half on how to write an abstract is exemplary; it tells you exactly what you need to say and how many sentences to give each thing. Thoroughly recommended, even to I-don’t-need-any-help-leave-me-alone-i-just-need-to-get-on-with-it-alright sceptics like myself.

I won’t be circulating the text until after the viva in January, although I will post some extracts to my ucl webpages shortly, including the revised abstract, the table of contents and possibly some of the conclusion. To anyone reading this in France I will be submitting a version to the CNHI mediatheque after the viva (soutenance). It will be in English but I intend to provide a summary in French.

I haven’t yet decided what to do with this blog. I’ll certainly keep it going for the next couple of months. You can expect a conference report or two and plenty of exhibition reviews as I intend to make use of my new-found leisure time by visiting lots of museums. I imagine that this might also be a useful place to try out ideas that arise in preparing for my viva.

But last of all a big


to everyone who’s taken the time to read my musings over the last 18 months or so, and especially to those of you who took the time to comment. It really made a huge difference, in terms of keeping me motivated and reminding me that there were other people out there who thought was I was doing was interesting and worthwhile.

This is a short extract from my acknowledgements:

I suggest in this thesis that as a researcher ‘being there’ online often helped to mitigate the difficulties associated with ‘being there’ in a big city. The many readers of my blog encouraged me to keep going and reassured me of the interest and value of my research. A special mention to Amy Barnes (of the University of Leicester’s ‘The Attic’ blog), Aurélie Samson, Daniel Letouzey and Franziska Heimburger, all of whom in different ways helped me make connections, both real and virtual.

Merci. Vraiment.

J-01. Keeping up with the media circus.

Posted October 9, 2007 by marystevens
Categories: French politics, Museums


Only four and a half years since Prime Minister Raffarin commissioned a report into the viability of an immigraion resource centre/museum the Cité nationale de l’histoire de l’immigration opens its doors tomorrow. And after a long period when only a tiny handful of people seemed to have heard of it suddenly it is headline news. There have been several articles in Le Monde, including an interview by Laetitia van Eckhout with Jacques Toubon, which cut straight to the heart of the matter:

Ce projet est-il encore porté, soutenu par le pouvoir actuel ? Le jour de son ouverture, la Cité ne sera pas officiellement inaugurée, ni par Nicolas Sarkozy ni par le ministre de l’immigration, Brice Hortefeux.

Ma préoccupation, ma priorité est d’ouvrir la Cité, de la faire vivre. En faire un événement politique m’importe peu. Mon souhait est que la Cité accrédite son propre message et qu’on ne lui en impose pas un. L’histoire a une force en elle-même qu’il faut absolument protéger. Ce faisant, quelle que soit l’apparence du discours politique aujourd’hui, je ne pense pas qu’ait disparu cette idée que la France est une société de diversité. Il est certain que le discours actuel insiste davantage sur l’idée de fermeture que sur celle d’ouverture. A entendre Nicolas Sarkozy devant les Nations unies, il semble néanmoins qu’il y ait davantage une continuité qu’une rupture avec les années Chirac, sur tous ces sujets concernant les valeurs fondamentales. En tout cas, depuis l’installation du nouveau gouvernement, je n’ai rencontré aucune difficulté, ni explicitement ni implicitement.

I can’t be the only person who finds it hard to believe a politician when he says “I’m not interested in making a political event of it”. I also find the idea that “history has a force of its own which must be protected” strange, as I have whenever Toubon has used the discourse about a “duty of history” or reprsenting “the whole of history” on the numerous occasions when I’ve heard him speak or read his interviews. All sorts of theorists of historiography, from Barthes to Hayden White via Foucault have shown precisely how this naturalization/autonomization of the discourse of history is used to disguise its mythological (in the Barthesian sense) function. History, very simply, does not have a ‘force of its own’ because as a discourse it does not exist outside of the mediation of historians in a specific political context. Wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest to admit this, not least because it is this idea of the autonomous realm of national history that was for so long responsible for excluding all sorts of subordinate narratives?

But I digress. The main point is that the Cité is currently everywhere. On France Culture this morning (thanks Franziska), in the press, everywhere. And trying to keep up with the publicity at the same time as writing an article and finishing two chapters by Monday is proving a bit much (not least since I can’t access Le Monde on my new server. grr). So apologies if the coverage on this site is not as comprehensive as it might be. But I am off to Paris tomorrow, armed with camera and laptop and will do what I can to record my impressions here. Even if you’ll have to look elsewhere for everyone else’s.

Towards the post-national museum? Staging Europe in Brussels

Posted October 4, 2007 by marystevens
Categories: Europe, Museums

A show has just opened in Brussels intending to draw attention to the ‘Europeaness’ of our cultural heritage and the interconnectedness of all European cultures [Independent]. The museum is a technology that has emerged in conjunction with the nation-state but can it adapt to the supra-national context? And can it perform the same work of unification in the post-modern age?

The article does not address the most important issue in addressing the way national – or bigger territorial – boundaries are figured in museums: what is left out? Does this ‘interconnection’ extend to Islamic Spain? Or the links between Venice and the Islamic world (as at this show last year)? Whilst I am in favour of anything that contributes to forging a sense of ‘Europeaness’ I am deeply sceptical about anything that risks mapping a myth of cultural homogeneity onto the geographical space of Europe. At whose expense?

Guardian article on immigration politics in France

Posted October 4, 2007 by marystevens
Categories: French politics, Immigration

Long feature in yesterday’s G2 about quotas for deporting clandestine immigrants in France and their murderous consequences [link]. For once it seems to me to be mostly correct – not always the case with the Guardian’s France coverage – and a good introduction to current debate on immigration in France for anyone who’s found the articles in French I’ve posted hard to follow.