Regarding the Visit to the Carre Plantagenet Museum

by Sebastian Luis Frete

In the context of the Second Doctoral SciCoMove Seminar in Le Mans, titled “Collecting practices, collections and collectors in the modern sciences (18th-21st C)”, which took place in late May at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Le Mans, we had the opportunity to visit the Jean-Claude-Boularad/Carre Plantagenet Museum. Located just meters from Saint Julian’s Cathedral, this museum focuses on archaeology and history, presenting the local history of the Sarthe region from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. The visit allowed us to contextualize our academic work by observing various methods of organizing and managing collections, while also prompting reflection on the administrative and political challenges faced by the museum sector.

We were welcomed by the museum’s vice-director and curator, who guided us through the permanent exhibition. The museum is divided into different halls representing Prehistory, Protohistory, the Cenomani, Gallo-Roman times, the Early Middle Ages, and medieval Le Mans. A division of time into stages or periods that follow one another, different from those of countries where a geographical order of collections was imposed. The displayed objects are showcased in large, well-lit display cases, each labeled with a numerical reference and briefly described.

The tour began with the oldest artifacts, dating back to the remote past: a collection of Middle Paleolithic artifacts (350,000-40,000 BP). Hand axes, blades, flakes, and Levallois cores attest to the lithic technologies of early human populations in the region. The display, though not extensive, features pieces of exquisite craftsmanship, especially notable considering some items are over 300,000 years old. Following this, there is a significant exhibition of Neolithic objects categorized into Copper, Bronze and Iron Age. Dioramas and models illustrate the ancient way of life of these populations, including burial practices, ceramics, and metallurgical artifacts.

The tour continued with objects related to the Roman conquest of Gaul. Numerous items such as ceramics, burials, glassware, gold, woodwork, and friezes recovered from historical archaeological investigations, chance discoveries, or urban renovations are on display. Sumptuous and everyday objects depict the multifaceted life in a Roman province. There is also a reconstruction of the ancient Roman wall that once surrounded the city, of which only a small section remains standing today, visible in the old town. The second part of the tour explored the temporary exhibition illustrating the life and development of the suburbs of Le Mans, focusing on industrial and automotive activities, as well as the cultural and recreational life of its inhabitants, especially in the 20th century.

Finally, we met with Nicolas Morel, director of the Vert Museum, who explained the future prospects facing local institutions. Le Mans currently hosts three museums: Carre Plantagenet for history and archaeology, the Tesse Museum, inaugurated in 1799, dedicated to Fine Arts, housing a significant collection of 19th and 20th century paintings and an exhibition dedicated to Ancient Egypt, and the Vert Museum of Natural History, showcasing local fauna, flora, and geology, with a focus on Sarthe’s Jurassic period. These three institutions are set to merge into one. The Tesse Museum is already closed due to building issues. The Vert and Plantagenet museums will soon close to make way for a new museum oriented towards new audiences and visitors, featuring smaller displays and virtual exhibitions.

Recently, two articles refer to the fragility of museums and the ephemeral nature of collections (Podgorny 2024; Burón et al. 2024). An idea entrenched in postmodern imagination views museums as permanent and imperishable institutions, overlooking the fact that many are housed in repurposed buildings with previous uses and meanings, and founded upon collections of diverse origins. For instance, the Plantagenet Museum, inaugurated in 2009, occupies a building that was a convent in the 13th century. Just 25 years later, it will close its doors to merge with the Tesse Museum, which has over 200 years of history, and the Vert Museum.

Museums are not immune to the political and cultural vicissitudes of the societies they are part of. Today, many institutions face existential threats while debating not only which pieces to exhibit and why, but also seeing their very existence jeopardized. Some topics seem no longer interesting, while others are challenging to explain and fail to capture public interest. Museums continue to grapple with the dilemma of educating versus entertaining, adapting or disappearing, constantly threatened by human and non-human issues (Buron et al. 2024). In this regard, Podgorny (2024), echoing Adalgisa Luigi, notes that nothing is more ephemeral than a collection, subject to the life and death of its collector, as well as the institution that displays it or banishes it to storage. Exhibitions are assembled and disassembled based on criteria that are not fixed, subject to theoretical or political changes, trends, or monotonous administrative ambiguities.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

-Burón, M, Podgorny, I y Richard, N, 2024, ¿Para qué un museo? A reflection from Latin America upon the fragility and necessity of museums. En: Humanities Research: Volume XX, Number 1, 2024, edited by Kylie Message, Frank Bongiorno and Robert Wellington, published 2024, by ANU Press, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. doi.org/10.22459/HR.XX.01.2024.09

-Podgorny, Irina, 2024. Los museos: un espacio nada permanente. Sabers en acció, 2024-01-10 https://sabersenaccio.iec.cat/es/los-museos-un-espacio-nada-permanente/.


OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
alexiacomte (July 5, 2024). Regarding the Visit to the Carre Plantagenet Museum. SciCoMove — Scientific Collections on the Move. Retrieved July 16, 2024 from https://doi.org/10.58079/11ybo


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