INVENTORY AND STOCKTAKING OF COLLECTIONS

Discover the inventory and stocktaking methods for the collections, and the Centre des Monuments Nationaux "Collectio" database.

  

PRESENTATION OF THE INVENTORY AND STOCKTAKING SECTION

The Collections inventory and stocktaking section is part of the Department of programming in the Monument and collections conservation department and is responsible for establishing the ownership of the cultural assets, studying, cataloguing, stocktaking, managing and disseminating the collections.

It works in collaboration with different partners: archive centres, museums, local authorities, the regional department for conservation of historical monuments (CRMH), the Commission for stocktaking loans of art works (CRDOA), the Central office for anti-trafficking of cultural assets (OCBC), etc.

It currently has six members of staff (one head of section, four inventory officers, one museum registrar).

 

 Inventory of collections at the Villa Kérylos © Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section, Centre des Monuments Nationaux

 

Missions:

In 2000, the Ministry of Culture and Communication (SP/SDMHEP-BCPMI) commissioned the Centre des Monuments Nationaux  to carry out an inventory of the collections kept in the monuments belonging to the State.

To manage the inventory missions at national level, a department dedicated to collections inventory and stocktaking was created on 27 October 2005.

Today, out of all the monuments, 76 are considered to hold collections, representing around 115,878 cultural assets, 7,600 of which are classified as Historical Monuments.

The collections contain objects of fine art, archaeology, popular arts and traditions, contemporary art, ethnology, numismatics, libraries and archives, etc.

  

Measuring a porcelain cup© Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section, Centre des Monuments Nationaux

   

 

Objectives:

•         Describe, index, catalogue, study and document the collections;

•         stock-taking of loans;

•         manage the movement of works;

•         help to highlight their value;

•         list and manage any thefts and missing items;

•         transfer information to the national "Palissy" database according to the standards of the Descriptive system of movable objects for collections protected as Historical Monuments;

•         transfer information to the database of the Commission for stocktaking loans of art works (CRDOA);

•         disseminate information on art works to the public, professionals and researchers, in accordance with the rules on confidentiality. 

 

Inventory number on the reverse of a palm of the Arc de Triomphe © Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section, Centre des Monuments Nationaux

 

PRESENTATION OF THE INVENTORY METHODOLOGY

The assets likely to be listed in the inventory are assets of an historical or aesthetic interest. Thus, according to Article L.2112-1 of the General Code of the Property of Public Bodies "cultural assets are part of the public domain of movable property of the public body owning assets of public interest from a historical, art, archaeological, scientific or technical point of view." 

In order to understand and manage the collections, the section carries out multi-year inventory and stocktaking exercises in situ according to an annual schedule set by the Monument and collections conservation department.

Historical and iconographic research is carried out at the same time to enable a better understanding of the cultural asset (legal status, attribution of an author, materials and usage, etc.).

The inventory consists in listing the cultural assets so that they are known and identified, disseminating information on them and keeping records.  All the cultural assets are taken into account as this approach is guided by heritage interest, not solely artistic value.

Most of the items kept in the monuments are items within the public domain, and are therefore inalienable and imprescriptible.

 

 

Identification of votive altars at the Hôtel de Sade © Colombe Clier / Centre des Monuments Nationaux

An inventory exercise is carried out at the monument:

For the pre-inventory, prior documentary and archive research is performed by the inventory officer, in particular collecting the old inventories, restoration files, etc. and establishing the legal status of the collections;

-          The inventory of a cultural asset (movable property only) means giving it a precise description (constitution, function, noting of markings, measurement, location, taking photos), according to the national descriptive system of movable objects and the Palissy thesaurus, whether the item is on display or kept in storage. All the items are inventory listed in this way, whether they belong to the CMN, the State or other custodian institutions. The inventory in situ is carried out in collaboration with the administrator, who provides access to the documents and all the rooms of the monument.

-          The data and images collected for each item are recorded on each information label in the Collection inventory and management database, as are the corrections and complements to these records.

-          Once the inventory is complete, an inventory register is published and checked/endorsed. A copy is sent to the administrator and another copy is filed with the Architecture and Heritage Media Library.

-          Any acquisitions or accidental discoveries will be added to this inventory, after endorsement, and sent to the CMN and the Architecture and Heritage Media Library.

-          Any new location of a cultural asset will be recorded in the Collectio database, as each cultural asset remains attached to its original monument.

 

 Inventory of the collections of the Maison des Jardies drawn up in 1895 © Photo Domaine National de Saint-Cloud / Centre des Monuments Nationaux

  

A stocktaking exercise is carried out at the monument:

Conducted by the Collections inventory and stocktaking section using old inventories, stocktaking consists in checking the presence, location and condition of the cultural assets in the monuments where they are assigned, on loan or subject to a decision to change the place of display. This is done on a ten-year basis following a tally of the cultural assets with their new location, carried out by the inventory officer.

 

Stocktaking of loans is carried out at the monument:

The stocktaking is carried out in situ on request from the lending institutions and the Commission for stocktaking loans of art works. The purpose is to locate the cultural assets and draw up a condition survey report. The purpose of the post-stocktaking exercise is to regularise the administrative situation of the assets via a ministerial Order or loan agreement. If the cultural assets have not been seen during the stocktaking, a complaint must be filed by the CMN.

 

A scientific inventory is carried out at the monument:

Once the administrative inventory is completed and validated, in-depth research work on the archives is carried out on the cultural assets by the inventory officer, to determine more precisely the attributions, history, techniques and materials, comparative notices, etc. They may call on experts from other institutions. This inventory is currently exceptional, due to a lack of time, but has however been done for the Château de Champs-sur-Marne and the Duchess's apartments at the Hôtel de Sully.

The inventory work results in a selection of cultural assets that can be classified as Historical Monuments, if they present "a public interest from a historical, art, archaeological, scientific or technical point of view."  Collaborative work is then carried out with the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs (DRAC) in question to prepare the classification file, as for the Villa Cavrois.

 

 Inventory of the lapidary at the Château de Coucy © Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section  CMN

 

MOVEMENT OF WORKS 

All movements of works must be recorded in the location fields in the "Collectio" inventory and management database.

 

These movements relate to:

-          acquisitions;

-          restorations;

-          work on buildings;

-          end of loans;

-          management of storage spaces;

-          changes in place of display in the monument and between monuments.

 

The works are transported by specialist carriers, either internally or externally. These carriers may only be chosen from those listed in the art works transport framework agreement. Art works transport insurance is taken out for each movement outside the building.

 

A condition report and delivery and pick-up note for the outward and return journeys must be systematically issued.

 

 

Packaging of tapestries at the Palais du Tau © Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section, Centre des Monuments Nationaux

 

 

TECHNICAL METHODS: THE "COLLECTIO" COLLECTIONS INVENTORY AND MANAGEMENT DATABASE

The CMN's general inventory database,  Collectio, was created using Microsoft Access 97 software, following discussions held in 2002. As this system is now obsolete, a new IT solution has been sought.

 

In 2013, using The Museum System (TMS) software from CIT, the Collectio database became a genuine collections inventory and management tool that feeds and interrogates information databases remotely. In the future it will have a public consultation interface.

The aim is to provide the Collections inventory and stocktaking section, and the whole of the CMN, with a long-term, consistent information system providing information on the inventories, management and conservation of cultural assets in collaboration with the monuments, via specific partners and, in time, via an Intranet and Internet portal with different consultation profiles.

It will group together and complement the movable property inventories that are entered after each in situ inventory or stocktaking  on the collections, i.e. around 51,000 cultural assets.

All the monuments managed by the establishment do not yet appear in the Collectio database and will be dealt with according to a multi-year plan. Others are represented by a part of their collections only, as the inputting and validation work is still in progress.

The scientific inventory will take place at a later stage. In addition, some data and photos may be missing. Their inventory or stocktaking will be done as part of the 2016-2025 inventory exercise programme.

The Collectio inventory database will be accessible to the public and to researchers in the near future. Until then, a site devoted to tapestries will be launched in 2017, giving a better understanding of these collections. 

  

 

Packing up a clock at the Hôtel de la Marine © Photo Collections inventory and stocktaking section, Centre des Monuments Nationaux