Dedicated to extra-European collections, this day of exchange was an opportunity to discuss regulatory, scientific, cultural, political and ethical issues related to the history of cultural property. Identifying and documenting heritage requires reliable sources and a controlled protocol (archival holdings, reference bases) in order to securely acquire cultural property with an unquestionable origin. For works already included in the inventory, a complete retrospective examination of the histories (priority corpus) is essential and can be implemented during the ten-year document or at a collection site.

69 heritage professionals from all over France participated in the second part of the seminar on provenance research organized by the DRAC Centre-Val de Loire in the superb chapel of the Museum of Fine Arts in Chartres.

Shift the lookd. Ivory chocolate and virgin: from exoticism to otherness

In accordance with the values and ethical standards established by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), the Washington Accords (1998) or the Ministry of Culture, the history of works is the subject of rigorous attention.

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The French State, in agreement with the countries of origin which have made the official request, may give right to a restitution of works of art. A bill to take the works out of the public domain and transfer ownership to the requesting State, based on prior historical research on provenance and acquisition, was then tabled in Parliament by the government.

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A law authorizing a derogation from the principle of inalienability of national collections must in fact be voted for each transfer of ownership of a work to the requesting State. An evolution of the law is the study to facilitate these complex processes.

An anthropological mediation allows to tell the plural history of the objects (aesthetic, technical, historical etc) starting either from cultural goods or collectors/ collectors. Polysemic narration is thus sought by professionals in order to share with the public an open view that does not enclose the heritage in a unilateral reading. Given the scope of the research to be conducted and the need to respect a diversity of points of view, the networks are now extending to Indigenous communities, which hold much-needed knowledge (gathering testimonies and documents).

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Beyond a shared heritage, everyone must be able to reclaim a sometimes painful heritage (wars, colonial contexts). In the face of a critical re-reading of a Western-centred history, international cooperation makes it possible to establish a peaceful dialogue between the countries of origin and those of reception. Studying and setting up the conditions for a better knowledge of the turbulent history of peoples is an integral part of the heritage issues of which professionals are fully aware.

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Databases now allow us to reconstruct these paths of objects in order to reveal another history of humanity. The mapping of Asian, African and Oceanic collections (“The World in Museum”) geolocates the progress of these heritage surveys through the online publication of documentary portals (Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA), major scientific departments of the State (Louvre Museum, Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet, Quai Branly Museum - Jacques Chirac ...). Coordinated by the Ministry of Culture, the Joconde database, the collective catalogue of museums in France, puts on line a large number of extra-European records (archaeology, ethnography, fine arts, decorative arts, slavery, human migrations etc).

Beyond a common heritage, the dialogue requested between cultural property in / outside Europe is part of the recognition of cultural rights, recognized by law no. 2015-991 on the new territorial organization of the Republic.


This day is part of the travelling seminar What a strategy patrimonial in Centre-Val de Loire?, initiated in 2019 by the DRAC Centre-Val de Loire in partnership with host cities, and continues for the 4e the fruitful dialogue between professionals in the region and elsewhere. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the 2002-5 law on museums in France, 7 exchange days are planned for this new edition.

Professionals concerned: elected officials, professionals in heritage, culture, education, the social field and tourism. Free registration by reservation:

Next 2022 dates

December 2, 2022, André Malraux space, Châteaudun (28): Review of scientific and cultural projects for 10 years

December 13, 2022, Museum of Fine Arts, Tours (37): Preserve and restore art in the public space