in Aubervilliers, in the nest of apprentice restaurateurs

It is a doubly interesting place for heritage lovers. In Aubervilliers, a former match factory, a precious testimony to the industrial history of the Paris suburbs, now houses the National Heritage Institute (INP). Created thirty years ago, this higher education establishment trains each year around fifty heritage curators – officials responsible for overseeing museums and historic monuments – as well as around twenty restorers, little virtuoso hands coming to the rescue of damaged heritage. “Training in the same establishment for these two closely complementary professions is a unique feature in Europe, points out its director Charles Personnaz.

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In these vast brick buildings, dominated by a tall chimney listed in the inventory from which sulfur and phosphorus still escaped at the end of the 1970s, restoration workshops, a laboratory and a specialized library allow future restaurateurs to acquire the skills of their profession. None are there by chance. Even before the entrance exam, all already had some manual know-how, allowing them to face a technical test of forty hours consisting of making a copy of an object (furniture, embroidery, painting, etc.). For five years, they then benefit from the wise advice of professionals and personalized follow-up in one of the disciplines taught: painting, sculpture, graphic and book arts, furniture, photography, textiles and fire arts (glass, ceramics and metals).

From books to ceramics

In a silent, almost collected atmosphere, training resumed at the beginning of September. On that day, a small group of students practice copying Renaissance illuminations. A little further on, the students of the “book” sector fashion models of old books.

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Some work on so-called “Arabic” bindings, with flaps; others are in the process of assembling the notebooks which will form a book using an embroidered technique of the XVIe century. “To get to know the structure of old books, the students reproduce identical models. They can then see how the object “works” ”, explains Éric Laforest, professional restaurateur and trainer.

In the next room, ceramic students in their first year are trying to fill in the gaps in glass objects. “They start by learning to work on placed surfaces, then increasingly complex parts”, explains Martine Bailly, responsible for training. The teacher is very proud to present the master’s work of a student who has just completed her course: for the Strasbourg Zoological Museum, she has restored an anatomy of the Blaschka cuttlefish. “Each year, around twenty works from public collections are thus restored by our students”, specifies Charles Personnaz.

A work of patience

Arrived in separate pieces, like an enigmatic puzzle, the object was patiently reconstituted using natural resin, Japanese paper, glass after long research which made the student travel from Germany to the United States. … “Restoration work like this advances restoration know-how”, congratulates the teacher. Catering professionals are not mistaken: in recent years, many have come to follow training courses at the INP. Once graduated, restaurateurs will practice in private. “Despite the enthusiasm for heritage, economic conditions remain difficult in France, regrets Charles Personnaz. Unlike what is happening in England, where an institution like the Victorian Albert Museum employs 80 restorers in its midst. “

Since the creation of the first specialized courses at the end of the 1970s, the level of restaurateurs has continued to increase, without their status being rethought. “Perhaps it would be time to think about a way of integrating them more closely into the life of cultural institutions”, suggests the director.


Heritage Days 2020: 11,458 places open to the public

Despite the health crisis, 11,458 places in France have planned to welcome the public on the occasion of the 37it is European Heritage Days (EHD), Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 September.

This year, the theme of the EHD highlights the “educational heritage”, the opportunity to discover several sites:
– the University of the Sorbonne (Paris), classified in 1 887.
– the Ministry of National Education (Paris), classified in 1993.
– the education house of the Legion of Honor (Saint-Denis), classified in 1927.
– the University Library of Human Sciences of Bordeaux (Gironde), registered
in 2016.
– the Hôtel de l’Académie de Nîmes, registered in 1940.

Full EHD program:


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