Exodus Stations #5

Research archive of Edouard de Laubrie for his curated exhibition 'Ruralités', at the Mucem
Selection of images in the archive by Vincent Chevillon

'Ruralités' permanent exhibition 2013-2020 Mucem — Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée
all image credits: Édouard de Laubrie

This is a selection of the research archive of the ethnolgist Édouard de Laubrie gathered during the many years of preparatory field work for his exhibition on Mediterranean Agriculture  « Ruralités » at the Mucem. The objects are originating from around the Mediterranean Basin and are mostly objects that correspond to ancestral techniques of agriculture and have been collected by the curator himself. This collection of images represents the starting point of our project, especially regarding the specificities of his curatorial approach that Édouard de Laubrie himself outlined during our first meetings at the Mucem, and which are revealed in depth in the interview with him in the next section. These images basically  document the place of origin of the objects on the exhibition, there where they were found by Édouard de Laubrie. Together with book chapters discussing the objects’ typology, administrative registers, historic information on the objects, acquisition material , these images represent both the exhibition’s archive and part of Mucem’s archive documenting the museum’s objects. As it is a contemporary archive, this small insight into it can deliver information on how is today a museological archive constituted.

The predecessor of Mucem is the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires in Paris, which was dedicated exclusively to French ethnology, and whose objects were transmitted to the Mucem. The Mucem is dedicated to Mediterranean culture, but had few Mediterranean objects in its collection when it opened in 2013. Exhibitions were therefore a means to acquire objects for the Mediterranean collections of the museum.

« Ruralités », which is an inaugural exhibition, was preceded by many ethnological field-work campaigns around the Mediterranean basin by Édouard de Laubrie. His archives, consisting of personal photos, reference materials from books, and acquisition documents, trace the fact that most of the objects were still used when they were collected and were found in their place of use. As the curator explains in the interview below, a museological project that includes in its collections new objects as heritage objects (and not mainly old objects that have a museological quality) is continuing the direction set by the French museologist and ethnographer George Henri Rivière.

The visual archives of Édouard de Laubrie which show the objects at the sites where they were collected and some of them were still in use, imbue the exhibited objects with a social dimension. In these archives the lived history of the objects is blended with reference material that the curator collected from books and with other sources, such as correspondence and official documents connected to acquisition and transport. These personal archives become a constituent part of the museum’s heritage as they are regularly deposited into the archive-department of the museum by the curators, where they are conserved and indexed. As Édouard de Laubrie affirms in the interview below, a particularity of this exhibition, which can be seen according to the images from his archive reproduced here, is the fact that most of the objects, although recent, reproduce ancestral prototypes of agricultural techniques, some dating back from prehistoric times and still used in rural areas.