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International symposium


« Contemporary evolution of museums : A public place to revisit ? »

Université de Toulouse1 Sciences Sociales – Toulouse - France
4th  and 5th of June 2009



The article L410.1 of the patrimony code defines the museum as « any permanent collection that is composed of  items whose preservation and presentation are of public interest and that is organised for the public’s knowledge, education and pleasure  ».  That definition gives the museum a patrimonial image that is a little rigid, that does not really take the major  changes in today’s society into account .

Indeed, today, museums are confronted with questions, if not major transformations regarding their management, their status, their territorial insertion, their relationship with the public, their means of mediation and development.


This symposium, organised by IDETCOM will analyse the changes in different fields : institutional, territorial, historical or communication. It seems indeed that it is the future itself of museums that is at stake, both national and international.

Could  these changes cause an epistemological break down in the definition itself of the museum ?

The answer to this question will only be found thanks to a pluridisciplinary approach based on law, information and communication sciences, but also history, economy, management or sociology…


Theme 1 : institutions and territories

By creating the designation « museum of France », the law dating from January 4th, 2002 tried to provide a unity to all the institutions that applied  for it.  One has to wonder what legal and communicational effects  this  designation  has.

Furthermore,  the decentralization reactivated first the power of action of the territorial organizations and second the roles of the territorial strategies. Indeed, this notion of proximity of the museum has legitimated the actions of the territorial organisations.

 The museum is seen as a key element for local development. Its architecture is designed in order to create better communication, its exhibitions are temporary : are museums becoming a territorial landmark that identifies or even redefines territories ?


Theme 2 : Modern management

In museums, the general public can often discover exhibitions that  belong to the State or to territorial organisations. But is the museum a prerogative of the public sector ? Is it a public service ? What are the advantages and usefulness of letting private individuals or public cultural establishments design or manage museums ?


Museums are more and more subject to the notion of profitability. How autonomous is the museum concerning this matter ?  Does this new notion question the initial mission of the museum , that is to say the preservation of exhibitions ?  Because of their inalienability, how can public collections then be acquired, sold or exchanged ?

Marketing is becoming inherent to the museum which is now a key activity for  tourism. How can by-products of the works of art be exploited (posters, cards, scans….) ? How can the creations of artists be respected ? 

What precautions should be taken when the artist is not identified ?

More and more authors wish to put their works within a (licence creative commons). What effect will this new practice have on the definition of the work of art which might be co-created and never completed ?


Theme 3 : new forms of mediation

Cultural mediation has deeply changed over the past years. The themes treated are more and more varied. Museums and temporary exhibitions continually update their displays often including multimedia and appealing to our senses. What can be done concerning the outside of the building (architecture and location) and the interior  (several rooms or an open space…) ? Does the museum house the exhibition or is it itself a work of art, sometimes taking from the exhibition ?

The priority for many museums is apparently to attract more and more people. They use unexpected aesthetic or ludic means and always try to adapt to the public’s desires. Different methods to include the public in  the exhibition project are being developed. Therefore what is the status of the public, spectator or actor ? How do they understand these new means ?


Moreover, how do institutions deal with these new ways of cultural mediation ? Many interactions between cultural mediations and their legal frame have been noticed. For instance, the patronage law (Aillagon law of August 1srt, 2003) has developed the implication of private companies. Do the latter bring new forms of sociability compared to the traditional « patronage friends » ? In that context, what happens with the implicit «  communication contract » between the institution and the public ?



Theme 4 : international

Globalization seems to concern all the different fields of culture. It is the case for museums. Indeed, they are given new missions to increase their financial value. They are therefore placed in the heart of the economy of the art world. Or they are considered as  « brands ».


This evolution has lead to new ways of management such as the creation of « «France museums »  or of the « International Agency for museums« . The recent agreement between the United Arab Emirates and France is at the centre of the debates on the internationalization of museums : is it a mere  « relocation of merchandize » or is it a « universalization of works of art » ?


In short, the policy of the internationalization of so-called « super star museums » leads to a number of questions :  eg  how ? how effective ? These questions are deeply related to the UNESCO legal frame on the ownership of works of art, on their return to the original country  and on the cultural diversity.


Scientific committee :

Françoise Benhamou (Université de Rouen), Robert Boure (Université Paul Sabatier Toulouse III), Renaud Carrier (Université de Pau et des Pays de l’Adour), Marie Cornu (Université de Poitiers CNRS), Martine Corral-Regourd (Université Toulouse 1 Sciences Sociales), Jean Davallon (Université d’Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse), Bernadette Dufrêne (Université Grenoble 2 Pierre Mendes France), Michelle Gellereau (Université Charles de Gaulle Lille 3), Nathalie Mallet-Poujol (Université de Montpellier I. CNRS),  Joëlle Le Marec (ENS Lettres et Sciences Humaine de Lyon), Jean-Marie Pontier (Université Paris1 Panthèon-Sorbonne), Dominique Poulot (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne) Bernard Schiele (Université du Quebec à Montréal).


Submitting and evaluating projects :  

If you wish to submit a project, it has to be in French. You have to precise the theme, the title, the issue, the theoretical framework and the methodology, the whole project being under 3,000 characters.

These submissions have to be sent before November, the 15th  by e-mail to Cette adresse email est protégée contre les robots des spammeurs, vous devez activer Javascript pour la voir. or directly to : Martine Corral-Regourd Université Toulouse 1 Sciences Sociales, Secrétariat IDETCOM, Colloque « Musées en mutations », 2 rue du Doyen-Gabriel-Marty, 31042 Toulouse Cedex 9, France.


The projects will be studied anonymously and a reply will be given to the author before January the 15th , 2009.   The final articles have to be written in French, English or Spanish.  They will be published in proceedings.


Organisation Committee

Christophe Alcantara, Martine Corral Regourd ,Didier Guignard, Saïd Hamdouni, Jean-Charles Jobart, Sylvie Laval, Muriel Lefebvre, Emilie Leroy,   Fabrice Reneaud, Sandra Vera Zambrano,  all members of IDETCOM, Université de Toulouse 1 Sciences Sociales, France.





 La presse en parle :


Université de Toulouse
Université Toulouse 1 Sciences Sociales (UT1)