Director of the Orleans museums, Olivia Voisin takes stock of her residency at the Villa Albertine in the United States

“After the Villa Medici in Italy, the Casa Velazquez in Spain, the Villa Kujoyama in Japan, the 21st century had not yet seen the birth of a Villa. It is therefore now a thing done thanks to the very dynamic Gaëtan Bruel, director of cultural services at the French Embassy in New York and now director of the Villa Albertine. The idea is to rebuild ties between France and the United States.

The Villa Albertine is the first residence 2.0. Indeed, there is no permanent villa but the possibility of going to different places where cultural attachés linked to the consulate are located. About twenty American cities are concerned. The residence brings together, without ever bringing them together, artists, musicians, writers, sociologists and in the middle of this panorama, it was decided to invite four museum directors.”

A certain way of thinking about collections

Why you ?

“Because the organizers knew of my interest in the question of openness to the public, the way of thinking about collections in report to the public.

The thousand and one good reasons to go to the Museum of Fine Arts of Orléans

How did this residency go?

“Scheduled for three months, it was adapted for directors in twice two weeks. So I left for a fortnight in the spring on the East Coast between Richmond and New York via Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Then again, in September: a week in Texas (Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston) and another in Los Angeles.”

What were the objectives?

“Compare and compare practices on the transparency of collections, on the need to return the collections to the public, from the point of view of both physical and intellectual accessibility: the strong concept of the museums of Orléans and of the scientific and cultural project that we are in the process of writing. The collections are public, they must not remain in reserve. But once we have said that, it is impossible to present all of the collections in the rooms.

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Our duty is to find solutions to show as many as possible. And there’s also everything we can do beyond that: it’s not all about hanging them up and waiting for the barge, we have to reconnect visitors with the works. The objective of this residency is therefore to compare practicessee the successes, the failures, concepts sometimes foreign to our conceptions, discuss with key players, reintroduce a dialogue on business aspects.”

One of the big debates currently in museums is also the carbon footprint. Did you mention the subject?

“I was indeed able to discuss the commitment to the environment. Because when we talk about exhibitions, these are movements of works, boxes… We are very committed to these reflections on recycling, even scenographies. These are choices, organization and we have a very involved manager in these questions. I could see that we were much more advanced than most American museums with whom we were able to exchange. Orléans is ahead in many aspects!”

Ideas to develop

Back in Orléans, Olivia Voisin already knows that this residency will feed the scientific and cultural project and that the ideas with which she returns will have an immediate application. And explain:

  • Cartels. The cartels are labels which make it possible to identify or even interpret the work presented. “They have been a source of a lot of discussion, it’s a rather divisive point between those who defend short cartels, those who prefer long cartels… And what do we put in there? There are as many approaches as interlocutors. In fact, the discussions were particularly enriching. In the United States, for example, visitors should not be given the feeling that they do not know. It’s very different in France… We are at a very experimental moment, a strategic moment in signage and the Musée d’Orléans is very involved in these questions: the museum must be a place where you can learn if you wish. We must be able to recreate a context in the cartels, but also in the mixture of techniques, in the use of color on the walls, to find ourselves in something a little broader than pure pictorial erudition which no longer has totally its place in museums. The context must tickle the curiosity each other.”
  • Website. “I also worked a lot on databases in museums in the process of redoing their website. In Orléans, we are in the process of creating it. And, as this will be the first, we want it extremely complete. This residency was an opportunity to discuss with colleagues the expected functionalities, how to have the greatest fluidity of navigation, how to that everyone finds his accountthe scientist who is looking for very precise information but also the novice who just wants to see beautiful images, how to bring together collections as vast as those of Orléans, which range from paleontological specimens to master paintings, including a medal calcined in the fire of 1940…”

Julie Poulet-Sevestre


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