InterCommunication No.15 1996



Computer technology has been used at the Louvre over the past decade, particularly in order to document, inventory, and manage movements of the approximately 315,000 works in the museum's seven major sections. Specific department requirements have led to much variation in how computer facilities are exploited: immense fragility of the portfolios constituting the Cabinet des Desseins prompted recent digitization of 130,000 works, henceforth consultable on-screen with none of the risks related to physical handling. The need to generate contexts for geographically and historically alien works such as those in the Departments of Oriential Antiquities and of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities has led to the development of interactive programs permanently available at consultation terminals within these sections. The aim is to extend the museum visitor's gaze, allowing him to see otherwise cryptic miniatures in appreciable dimensions, or at the other end of the scale, to visualize in their architectural context monumental elements otherwise difficult to behold, such as the Louvre's huge Assyrian reliefs. Works can be placed in their natural environments, and more finely apprehended against the backdrop of clays, minerals, and even flora and fauna that constitute their original settings.

In such instances, digital, interactive technologies have been discreetly integrated into the museum-goer's actual tour to make otherwise cloistered works accessible, and provide valuable contextual information while avoiding encumbering the exhibit with masses of extraneous data. But computer bases in traditional museums may also be used in ways invisible to the public, for example to keep track of works: the substantial program devoted to the "Gestion Physique des Oeuvres" ("Physical Management of Works") in the Painting and Sculpture Departments ensures constant monitoring of items displaced for restoration, loans out to temporary exhibitions, etc. Virtual images may assist in the prefiguration of exhibition layout. Hence, for the Richelieu wing extension, architect and computer graphist Jean-Louis Schulmann modeled proposed hangings in the Poussin rooms, allowing the curator, Sylvain Laveiss俊e, to "visualize" various juxtapositions of Poussin paintings in the new Pei rooms without any physical displacement of the paintings being necessary [*1]. Subsequently and along the same lines, the D姿artement des Objets d'Art requested that Schulmann develop computer graphics simulations of newly designed display modules for small artefacts, in order to analyze their visual impact in the ornate, heavily gilded Galerie Charles X.