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The future of museums depends on science

18 May is International Museum Day. This year’s theme, “Museums for Education, and Research,” underscores the pivotal role of cultural institutions in providing an educational experience.

Criobe site in Moorea, French Polynesia, with the Fare natura eco-museum building.
Criobe site in Moorea, French Polynesia, with the Fare natura eco-museum building.

© Anthony LAGANT / CRIOBE / CNRS Images

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A historical legacy and an "irreplaceable source of life and inspiration", our cultural heritage now constitutes a major part of our history. Discover how a multitude of scientific disciplines have mobilised to conserve and transmit our heritage to future generations.

Linking fundamental with applied research, the heritage sciences work on a cross-disciplinary basis not only to identify the materials and techniques used by the creators of this heritage, but also to analyse the phenomena that alter or destroy it over time.

The research covers all types of heritage, whether physical, intangible or digital, and encompasses all the areas of intervention of the professionals working to conserve it and explain it to the public.

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Un étrange phénomène frappe plusieurs oeuvres réalisées à Paris à la fin des années 1950, notamment des tableaux de Pierre Soulages : la peinture se ramollit et redevient liquide. Pour comprendre les causes de ces altérations, on vous emmène aux Abattoirs, Musée – Frac Occitanie de Toulouse, suivre une équipe de scientifiques lancée dans une grande campagne d'analyse des composants de peinture grâce à des techniques d'imagerie non-invasives novatrices.

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Soulages : Au coeur de la peinture
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A series of 17 videos created by the teams from the ""Digital Data"" working group of the Notre-Dame de Paris scientific site (Ministry of Culture/CNRS) which was formed following the fire on 15 April 2019. The aim is to build a ""digital ecosystem"" of the cathedral that provides useful information for the restoration work as well as updating the knowledge of the building. It involves teams from around fifty laboratories throughout France. …

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Chantier scientifique de la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Le)
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The Youtube channel Zeste de science explores all aspects of scientific research, proving that even the most complicated scientific facts can be explained in less than 5 minutes, and that even the most seemingly trivial events of everyday life, if thoroughly studied, can contribute to the biggest technological advances. Episode 15: How do people look at a work of art? Sociologist Mathias Blanc tries to answer this question in a new project combining art history, sociology and…

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How Do You Look at Art? ZdS#15
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Two years after the fire of 15 April 2019, Notre-Dame will be the venue of a huge scientific investigation to uncover the cathedral's secrets and to help restore it. In this film, discover how researchers are drawing information from stone and iron to understand how the original builders constructed a cathedral that was much taller than its contemporaries. The ""iron"" team is focused on the remains of the upper part of the cathedral and the nails of the roof frame, using…

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Notre-Dame de Paris: a vessel of stone and iron
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À première vue, peu de choses affleurent à la surface de ce bloc de construction de deux mètres de long pesant une demie tonne. Le bloc de l'Alcazar, découvert à Marseille et conservé au Musée d'Histoire de la ville, est pourtant une curiosité sans équivalent. Eclairé sous une nouvelle lumière, c'est une partie de l'histoire de la Méditerranée d'il y a 2600 ans qu'il raconte alors… Il fait apparaitre des centaines de graffiti antiques superposés, de lettres, de silhouettes humaines et…

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Bloc d'Alcazar en lumière (Le)
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To mark the bicentenary of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc's birth, the MAP laboratory (Models and simulations for architecture and heritage) and its teams worked on 3D models of elements from the City of Carcassonne and Pierrefonds Castle. In order to carry out these models, they used drones and numerical tools developed by the laboratory. Part of this work will be presented in an exhibition entitled "Viollet-le-Duc[Trait pour trait/Viollet-le-Duc, line for line]" at the Cité de Carcassonne from June…

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Modelling heritage sites in 3D
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Sailing ships, fishing boats and lighters sailed along the banks of the Tiber between the 2nd and 5th centuries, when Rome had one of the largest harbours to help supply it. In the late 1950s the remains of these ships were discovered during excavations near Fiumicino International Airport. Giulia Boetto, a naval archaeologist, in collaboration with other researchers and engineers, was able to reconstruct them using 3D modelling.

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Ships of the ancient port of Rome (The)
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How can Notre-Dame's stone, woodworks and stained glass be restored in the best possible manner? A large scientific collaboration bringing together more than 50 research teams has begun to study the iconic cathedral damaged by fire a year ago. A digital data team has also joined forces to create a digital backup of the edifice and develop tools that will collect all available information about it.

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Notre-Dame: Building a Digital Monument
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As part of the Fiat Lux scientific project, the painted decorations of the chapel of Notre-Dame-des-Fontaines are studied by a team of interdisciplinary researchers. Using LIBS, they will be able to identify the chemical elements that make up the pictorial materials among all those in Mendeleev's periodic table. Many other tools are used in this project designed to capture and disseminate heritage in a new way in the digital age.

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Fiat Lux, casting light on heritage
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On the occasion of the 2019 CNRS Medal for Innovation award, we look back at the career of Livio de Luca, a researcher in the digitisation of cultural heritage. Originally trained as an architect, then obtaining a degree in Arts and Crafts and Computer Science, Livio de Luca defines himself as a researcher in the digitisation of cultural heritage. Now director of the Models and Simulations for Architecture and Heritage laboratory (CNRS/Ministry of Culture), this CNRS researcher began his work…

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Livio de Luca, lauréat de la Médaille de l'innovation 2019
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The Chauvet Pont-d' Arc cave in the Ardèche department has just been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a treasure that the general public will be allowed to discover from 2015 onwards by visiting its replica, the so-called "Caverne du Pont-d'Arc" made up of facsimiles of some twenty panels. Gilles Tosello, a prehistoric plastic artist, describes the technique he uses to replicate one of these frescoes, "the panel of horses".

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The Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc Cave: Towards a facsimile
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A spin-off of the Models and Simulations for Architecture and Heritage laboratory (CNRS/Ministère de la Culture), the start-up Mercurio proposes a scanner to quickly and autonomously create realistic 3D models of art objects of all sizes, ranging from a vase to a sculpture. A new way to enhance museum collections.

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Mercurio
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In the Notre-Dame-des-Fontaines chapel in the area of Nice, a team of interdisciplinary researchers is studying frescoes dating from the 15th century to understand how they deteriorate and thus better restore them. As part of the Fiat Lux program, this project is to collect and feed a large amount of images and information into a digital platform. Using different imaging techniques, these researchers will reconstruct works in 3D, probe their relief, make out successive repaints or even detect…

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Paintings pixel by pixel
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How do we look at a work of art? That is the question that sociologist Mathias Blanc is trying to answer in coordinating an ambitious project combining art history, sociology and computer science. Using the Ikonikat application, CNRS researchers have been trying to understand how images are perceived by different beholders. They found out that the way people look at a work of art depends on their sociological profile in a recent research at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lille on a painting by…

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Ikonikat: looking at art with different eyes
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A Franco-Ethiopian research team is attempting to understand the complex past of Lalibela, located in Ethiopia, one of the most important Christian sites in Africa. The aim of this partnership is to identify the progressive stages of excavation of the eleven churches on the site in order to study the history of Lalibela throughout its existence. Alongside the archaeological excavations, a digitisation project is underway. Engineers are working on the internal and…

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Cité creusée dans la roche (La )
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Discovered in 1902, the ruins of Loropeni represent the only witnesses of a fortification activity in the region of Lodi, in Burkina Faso. To discover the secrets of this archaeological construction, an international research team was established. At the intersection of several disciplines and research methodologies, this team tries to understand the history of this site.

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Mysterious Ruins of Loropeni (The )
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The Youtube channel Zeste de science explores all aspects of scientific research, proving that even the most complicated scientific facts can be explained in less than 5 minutes, and that even the most seemingly trivial events of everyday life, if thoroughly studied, can contribute to the biggest technological advances. Episode 26: In 2018, an international partnership of scientists began mapping the ground surface in the Mayan area over 2000 square kilometres using light detection and ranging…

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Mayans were country bumpkins ZdS#26
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The "abbey of the angels" (abbaye Notre-Dame-des-Anges), built in the sixteenth century on the coast of western France, contains within its walls an exceptional collection of acoustic jars. What were they for? A team of archaeologists, acousticians, historians and musicologists have been trying to understand the technical and symbolic functions of this ingenious device.

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Mystery of the Acoustic Pots (The)

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