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Location

One place, four tasks : Conserve – Restore – Study – Communicate

Conserve

As a place for the safe-keeping and conservation of works and documents not on permanent display at the various museums, the Artothèque must naturally comply with strict standards for security and preservation: its primary role is not simply to store these artefacts, but to preserve them and keep them alive for future generations to discover.

Whilst it is the eclectic nature of the collections that we have to thank for the wealth and diversity of the heritage of Mons, their preservation demands a meticulous approach, designed to fit perfectly with the environmental standards of the archive rooms.

The light and humidity conditions that must be complied with have been the focus of a number of studies, and the technical specifications for these areas of the building were particularly precise and strict.

These relate not only to maintaining stable climatic conditions and controlled lighting, but controls on pollutants (dust, biological agents etc.) and storage conditions (such as ensuring a suitable match between the artefacts being stored and the furniture used to hold them).

Security arrangements for the Artothèque have also been the focus of special care and attention, with the movement of works of art, members of the public and members of staff being singled out for particularly careful consideration. Access to the archive rooms is of course restricted; the positioning of water pipes was mapped out in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of damage to the works of art, even in the event of an accident or leak; and the volumes were compartmentalised such that, in the event of a fire, only a tiny part of the collections would be affected.

Naturally, the measures taken to protect the works were also designed to take into account the safety of visitors and of technical and general staff working at the Artothèque.

 

Video about the Artothèque "Une oeuvre, un musée"
 

  

Restore

A restoration workshop will be housed in the former vestry of the main chapel. Its location, close to the works yet separated from the archive rooms, will mean that one-off restoration tasks can be carried out quickly. As well as carrying out remedial work, the restoration workshop will be essential for the general maintenance of the collections.

Study

As the nerve centre of the Mons museums network, the Artothèque will perform some of the roles intrinsic to any museum, notably taking responsibility for carrying out scientific studies into the collections it takes care of. It is the linchpin of the museums hub, ensuring that the network functions in a cohesive manner. A photographic studio is planned too, however this will be used in studies of our heritage, supporting preventative conservation measures.

By 'preventative conservation', we mean any actions undertaken in the aim of increasing the lifespan of a collection's objects and documents, and therefore everything relating to our understanding of their history, their current physical condition (recorded in 'condition reports'), their latest location (e.g. on loan, on display, undergoing restoration), movement and maintenance, etc.

Communicate

The Artothèque will also play a prominent role in the media and communications aspect of our local collections and conservation work, because even though a museum's archives are essential to its operations, the paradox is that these days they are rarely mentioned.

Student activities, ongoing educational programmes and publications will be organised and will either take place on site or be run in cooperation with other establishments from the Mons museums hub.

Rather than being defined as either traditional or visitable archives, the Artothèque will offer a window onto the hidden side of museums, making this open to all members of the public.

Visitors will therefore be able to enjoy all of the activities based around the collections, meaning that benefit can be derived from them, either through their appearance at exhibitions or through studies or publication of information about them – all activities that are essential for museums to participate in and which in fact are specifically named in the little-publicised roles of museums defined by ICOM (International Council of Museums). This often thankless yet always essential work is performed with the long term in mind.

The Virtual Artothèque

A digital double where visitors can experience and understand our heritage

Devoted to the "hidden side" of the museums, the Virtual Artothèque will lift part of the veil concealing the vast machinery of the archives. The visible archive and its accompanying displays will explore this often unknown world of accrual, naming and labelling, storage, packing, restoration and so on of exhibits. Emphasis will be placed on the physical aspect of this work and all the techniques (both physical and digital) relating to the task of conservation.

The "virtual" archive is the fruit of the digitisation of these works of art – a process carried out both for scientific purposes and to expand public access to them – and will serve as the basis for creating the multimedia equipment that will lead the visitor to the very heart of our heritage.

Handling, participation, immersion and exploration will be the guiding principles of the visitor's journey experienced through new technology specially designed for the Mons collections.

The Virtual Artothèque will unquestionably be a place of unique experiences for the curious-minded.

 

 

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