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"Collections under construction"

Alongside the various museum refurbishments currently taking place in Mons, the Museums Hub team responsible for conservation is carrying out its own "construction site for Mons's museum collections". While the core task of preserving and distributing these collections has always enthused this team, it is even more the case now, from the perspective of preparing them for inclusion in the exhibitions at the future museums and for movement in 2015 to the new archives situated in the Artothèque. This "construction site for the collections" constitutes one of the main objectives between now and the opening of these various sites. It was set up over a year ago now, for the purpose of digitising in high definition some of the objects from the various collections and with the goal of obtaining mostly completed inventory files.

As far as digitisation is concerned, it was necessary to make an initial selection from some very eclectic collections. Indeed it was essential to make a choice about the diversity of the objects and while they are all interesting, priority had to be given to those that stand out for their rarity and heritage value, while ensuring that each collection (Antiquity, Gallo-Roman period, Wars 14/18, 40/45, fine art, coins, ceramics, etc.) was well represented. In total, over 1000 objects were chosen for digitisation.

L’Atelier de l’Imagier, a Brussels-based company specialising in the high-definition digitisation of heritage articles, was commissioned to carry out this specific task. Thus, items from all eras and media, including paintings, sculptures, artefacts from prehistory, documents, photographs and many more, passed through the very high-definition scanner of Atelier de l’Imagier. Now, thanks to their work, we have high-quality images which can be used for educational purposes, for publications and in our work to maintain inventories of the collections. L’Atelier de l’Imagier had set up a small studio at the archives, enabling them to capture the selected objects without the need to move them away from their place of conservation. This process accounted for one of the big challenges in the conservation of the museum collections: to avoid the movement of objects as far as possible. This is especially important when either the conservation conditions or the high value of the articles obliges minimal movement, thereby avoiding any risk of deterioration.

Of course, the objects digitised by l’Atelier de l’Imagier are added to the rest of the collections which are photographed and listed in the inventories by the Museums Hub team working at the archives. Certainly the quality of these photos does not match that of the images produced by L’Atelier de l’Imagier, but they are nonetheless of good quality and enable us to document the object. While this work progresses on a daily basis, the task is not made any smaller by the fact that the collections are continually being added to, objects are restored and their condition needs to be documented visually, etc.

By the time the collections are moved, our teams are aiming to have added to the inventories and photographed the majority of the works and objects so as to be able to provide the public with a service for looking up the collections online. They will be accessible either at the Artothèque or from the comfort of your home via the Mons heritage portal (FLORA) or via the shared database of the AICIM network (Electronic Access to the Collections of Museum Institutions) of which the Mons public museums are members, together with about 60 other Walloon and Brussels museums.

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