Collecting Musical Instruments in France (1795-1995) From National Heritage to Cultural Policy

Abstract : Even if Michele Todoni (1616-1690) had already publically displayed his collection in Rome, the concept of a public collection of musical instruments seems not to have emerged before 1795, in the wake of the Parisian Convention nationale (First Republic). In the legislation that was to establish the Institut national de Musique, the future Conservatoire, the Convention insisted that a National Cabinet of instruments for public education should exhibit a »collection of ancient or foreign instruments and also those in present use which, by virtue of their perfection, may serve as models«. Based on instruments confiscated from aristocratic private houses, this Cabinet fulfilled its aims for one generation – but Luigi Cherubini dismantled this educational collection in 1816, of which only 13 items are still preserved. Following other attempts as Vienna 1825 or Edinburgh 1859, public collections were progressively opened at the time of international industrial exhibitions, governed by ideals of national emulation, an awareness of national heritage and mass culture. Loan exhibitions of ancient instruments in London 1872, Paris 1878, Bologna and Brussels 1888, Paris 1889 etc. highlighted national schools of instrument making and taxonomic displays and encouraged private collectors all over Europe to give their collections eventually in part to public institutions. Colonialism also often gave rise to ensembles of non-European instruments. Following Pascal Ory (L’aventure culturelle française, 1989) and Marc Fumaroli (L’État culturel, 1991), it seems that the French Front Populaire 1936 and, later, André Malraux 1958 embodied cultural policies with a hitherto unknown degree of democratization. But they had little impact on musical instrument collections in France when several collectors across Europe began to consider not only the technical but also the cultural and social contexts of these artefacts to be significant. Only recently have collections with a programmatic dimension been established, combining heritage and cultural policy.
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Florence Gétreau. Collecting Musical Instruments in France (1795-1995) From National Heritage to Cultural Policy. Private Passion – Public Challenge. Musikinstrumente sammeln in Geschichte und Gegenwart,, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg - DFG, May 2017, Nuremberg, Germany. pp.88-101. ⟨halshs-01910472⟩

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