11 April 2022

Coming soon: 5 new ways to discover jewelry in museums!

The last Museum Connection trade fair showcased the extraordinary innovations setting the museum world alight. It’s time to apply some of that craziness to jewelry.

By Sandrine Merle.



1/ Journey into the senses

Put on the jewel, place it on your head, or fasten it around your neck! Interactive showcases can now detect onlookers and invite them to stop and adorn themselves with the cameo diadem that belonged to Empress Josephine (now in the Masséna Museum in Nice). What better way to understand the priestly status that wearing this jewel… “Devices like this are already being used to help visitors copy the dance positions of certain statues,” explains museologist and university professor Vanessa Ferey.


2/ Open up the reserves!

In the Jewelry Gallery of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, you can admire 1,279 pieces of the 5,000 acquired since the end of the 19th century. For lack of space, the others are kept in the reserves, out of harm’s way, like this very fine collection of French regional jewelry. “Generally speaking, it is estimated that museums only exhibit 10% of their collections,” says Vanessa Ferey. Carefully wrapped in tissue paper, thousands of jewels await their moment of glory in the wings of the MAD, the V&A, the MET, etc. And that day might not be too far away– the focus is now on enhancing the whole of such collections (rather than importing from other institutions) and integrating the reserves into the museography.


3/ Putting the public in charge

In a participatory approach, the public is increasingly invited to create its own exhibition by choosing online the pieces it would like to see. It can go even further: they are then invited to enrich the history of the pieces (in reserve or on display) using an online platform containing thousands of photos of bracelets, necklaces and rings from the Met, the V&A, etc. They can add a more human or poetic touch to the images (jewelry that they would have seen worn by one of their grandmothers, etc.) which the researchers then adopt – a kind of permanent cultural forum that does not yet exist for jewelry collections.


4/ Blurring the boundaries between real life and museums

The Loc’Hall company offers you the chance to have breakfast or dinner in the Matisse room of the Museum of Modern Art, or in the archaeological crypt of the Ile de la Cité, and even to sleep in Rosa Bonheur’s room. “Our starting point was that these places are under-used most of the time”, explains Elisabeth Barbier, one of the two founders. The only such example from the jewelry world is the venerable School of Jewelry Arts in a mansion in Place Vendôme with its gemology workshop, its rich library abundantly filled with books and even an exhibition room that will soon host “Engraved Gems”. Thanks to Sandra Giovannetti, founder of Be My Space, you can also work among works of art… While it’s not yet possible to install your computer in front of the Crown Jewels at the Louvre or an ethnic ornament at the Quai Branly Museum, “it would be easy, however, as unlike paintings, the jewels are protected by showcases.”


5/ Breaking out…

When museums exhibit their precious works elsewhere… they often turn to another museum. The Yves Saint Laurent foundation, for example, exhibited the designer’s jackets for a few months in the Apollo Gallery of the Louvre – a clever way of underlining the inspiration of light, of gold. But who would dare to display jewelry in a post office, a butcher’s shop, a convict’s home or a disused store, as we’ve already seen with paintings? When will we see a jewelry trail in a city lined with works of art accompanied by soundscapes triggered as the visitor passes through? An idea for the museum of Pforzheim (in Germany), dedicated to jewels, a good part of which is devoted to avant-garde creation.


Banne image : Yves Saint Laurent in the Apollo Gallery © Nicolas Mathéus for the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Paris


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