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À propos de ce projet / About This Project
Saisir Marie-Antoinette à travers son almanach
Les almanachs sont associés aux calendriers, aux prévisions de météorologie, aux cycles lunaires, aux marées, ou encore aux statistiques d’une activité sportive ou à un hobby. En effet, l’étymologie du mot « almanach » provient de l’arabe, « manach » qui signifie « compter ». Néanmoins, dans Le Trésor des Grâces, un almanach publié en 1779 à Paris, et qui porte en couverture les armes de Marie -Antoinette, la plus célèbre des reines françaises, le désintérêt pour tout ce qui se compte est frappant dès une première lecture. En parcourant les pages de l’almanach l’on s’aperçoit de l’absence de toute information pratique, que ce soit des pronostics agricoles ou du temps qu’il fera, à l’exception du calendrier situé à la fin du volume et aux pages consacrées à la tabulation des gains et pertes aux jeux de cartes et de hasard.
Quoique les centres d’intérêt reflétés dans l’almanach de la reine différencient Marie-Antoinette et son milieu social de ceux de la majorité des sujets français de l’Ancien Régime, Le Trésor des Grâces, contient de nombreuses révélations sur les pratiques culturelles de l’élite féminine parisienne du XVIIIe siècle. L’almanach met en avant les goûts de la reine, incontestablement opulents, mais qui ont trop souvent été jugés comme simplement frivoles. Plutôt que de prendre pour acquis que le penchant de Marie-Antoinette pour des coiffures compliquées et ornées—les « poufs à la circonstance » ou les « poufs aux sentiments »--ne signalent que les excès matérialistes d’une princesse, les auteurs de ce projet proposent des lectures attentives des références faites par les coiffures. Une exploration poussée des onze « poufs » verticaux trouvés dans Le Trésor des grâces expose la profonde implication de la reine dans la culture théâtrale de son époque et sa commémoration, par le style de ses cheveux, des grands moments historiques de son siècle.
Dans cette exposition Scalar, les étudiantes de Wellesley College qui faisaient partie du cours du professeur Bilis, French 303, « Long Live the Queen !: Women in Power Under the Ancien Régime », proposent des lectures détaillées de toutes les coiffures dans l’ almanach de la reine. Chaque entrée décrit ce que les lecteurs du Trésor devraient noter en regardant les gravures colorées, et offre une analyse du « pouf » en question, avec des notes bibliographiques et des liens supplémentaires à la clé pour continuer la recherche.
Les auteurs de ce projet souhaitent chaleureusement remercier Ruth R. Rogers, conservatrice de la collection des Livres Rares à Wellesley. C’est elle qui eut l’idée d’acheter l’almanach ; elle en a aussi supervisé la numérisation et a incité à la conceptualisation de ce projet. La recherche des étudiantes a bénéficié du soutien et des efforts admirables de la bibliothécaire Laura O Brien. Jenifer Bartle, manager des projets numériques à Wellesley College, a travaillé sans relâche afin de préparer la présentation des descriptions pour un visionnement public et elle a mis en place l’exposition sur Scalar. L’initiative de Wellesley College Blended Learning a généreusement soutenu ce projet.
Nous remercions particulièrement Lia Gelin Poorvu dont l'achat de l'almanach a rendu ce projet possible.
Si vous avez des questions ou commentaires au sujet du projet, les adresser au Prof. Hélène Bilis: firstname.lastname@example.orgUnderstanding Marie-Antoinette Through her Almanac
We tend to associate almanacs with calendars, long-range weather predictions, moon cycles, tide tables, or with a list of statistics of a given sport or hobby. Indeed, etymologically the word “almanac” is thought to come from the Arabic, manach, which means “to count.” Yet, in Le Trésor des Grâces, an almanac published in 1779 Paris that bears on its cover the coat of arms of France’s most famous queen, Marie-Antoinette, the disregard for counting everyday matters of concern is clear from a first skim. A more thorough reading reveals a complete lack of practical information, be it meteorological and agricultural prognostications or other metrics, except for a small calendar at the end and a section devoted to tabulating wins and losses at the card table.
While the interests reflected in the queen’s almanac certainly differentiate Marie-Antoinette and her social milieu from those of the majority of French subjects living under the Ancien Régime, Le Trésor des Grâces has much to reveal regarding the cultural and sociological practices of elite Parisian women of the eighteenth-century. The almanac brings into focus the queen’s tastes, which are unquestionably opulent, but have too often been derided as merely frivolous. Rather than assume that Marie-Antoinette’s penchant for intricate and lavish coiffes—the “pouf à la circonstance” or “pouf aux sentiments”—signals a shallow contribution to fashion, the authors of this project have sought to track down what the hairstyles reference. A careful exploration of the eleven vertical “poufs” in Le Trésor exposes the queen’s participation in the theatrical trends of the eighteenth century and her commemoration, through the styling of her hair, of historical events of the day.
In this Scalar exhibit, Wellesley College students who were part of Prof. Hélène Bilis’ French 303 course, “Long Live the Queen: Women in Power Under the Ancien Régime” present detailed readings of every hairstyle found in the queen’s almanac. Each entry describes what Le Trésor’s readers should note in viewing the colorful prints and offers a carefully researched explanation of the given “pouf,” including footnotes and additional links for continued investigations.
The authors of this project wish to warmly thank the following people for their essential contributions: Ruth R. Rogers, Curator of Wellesley College Special Collections, acquired the almanac, oversaw its digitization, and first had the idea of creating this exhibit. The students’ research was accomplished under the superb guidance of Laura O’Brien, Wellesley instruction librarian; and Jenifer Bartle, manager for digital projects at Wellesley College, who tirelessly prepared the descriptions for public display and skillfully curated the exhibit on the Scalar site. The Wellesley College Blended Learning Initiative generously supported this project.
Special thanks to Lia Gelin Poorvu, Wellesley College Class of '56, whose generosity made the acquisition of this almanac possible.
For questions and comments about the project, please contact Prof. Hélène Bilis: email@example.com
On the Development of Des Coiffures pour l’histoire: A Brief Case Study
The success of scholarly digital projects in the liberal arts college context depends upon broad collaborative support from experts across departments.
Library staff in Wellesley College’s Library and Technology Services (LTS) provided three distinct types of support for the Des Coiffures pour l’histoire / Between Hairstyle and History project: collections, research, and publishing. What follows is a brief case study detailing these three aspects of project support.
Collections SupportIn 2014, while scanning a Parisian antiquarian bookseller’s catalog for possible acquisitions, Ruth Rogers, curator of Special Collections, spotted a tantalizing entry: a small 18th century almanac, bound in dark red morocco and stamped in gold with the coat of arms of Marie-Antoinette. The dealer asserted that no other copies of this exact edition were known to bibliographies or listed in international research collections. Most likely, it had been made up of sheets from other almanacs and put into this binding for the queen herself. With generous support from Library benefactor and former Wellesley College Trustee Lia Gelin Poorvu ‘56, this precious book was acquired for Wellesley’s Library.
In Spring 2016, students in French 303: “Long Live the Queen!”: Women, Royalty and Power in the Ancien Régime studied this almanac in their coursework. Early in the class, Ruth gave a guest lecture to students, introducing this important acquisition and also providing a broader orientation on the book in the hand-press period. This covered early letterpress printing methods, formats, and illustration methods such as woodcut, engraving, and etching. The class was introduced to the rococo book beyond the almanac, with other examples from the Library's collections. They discussed publishers and booksellers, and the audiences for various popular forms of reading. They finished with an overview of contemporary databases and bibliographies specializing in rare and out of print books.
To enable the creation of this digital project, the Trésor des Grâces almanac was digitized by the Northeast Document Conservation Center; the images were then prepared for use by the class by Marci Hahn-Fabris, digital collections librarian. Students in the class had the benefit of interacting directly with the physical object itself, as well as the convenience of having full access to digital surrogates for their own research needs.
Research SupportTo prepare for their exploration of this artifact of 18th-century publishing and aristocratic life in the ancien régime, students in the course worked in class and individually with Laura O’Brien, research and instruction librarian, to perform extensive research into diverse topics including hairstyles and fashion of the French court, theatrical performances, engraving practices, gaming, and book sales during the Enlightenment. Key primary and reference sources for study were collected on the course research guide and a Zotero library.
One important area of instruction provided to students as they pursued their research projects was in basic methods of visual analysis. While some students were able to identify and contextualize their coiffure relatively easily, others had hairstyles whose origins were less obvious. In the absence of textual evidence from a reference source or some other clear inspiration, they were encouraged to focus on what they could discern from the image itself. Is the hairstyle ornate or relatively simple? Is the primary decoration flowers, or jewels? What is its general shape, and is that shape somehow suggestive or emblematic? How does this engraving fit into the context of other engravings from the period on similar themes? These tactics of visual literacy instruction in turn opened further avenues for productive research and analysis.
Publishing SupportThis exhibit was produced in Scalar by Jenifer Bartle, manager of digital scholarship initiatives, using content created and gathered by enrolled students and faculty. Students wrote and submitted their contributions in French, then translated them into English, and shared them via Google Docs.
Jenifer’s idea to display the bilingual text in equivalent columns, in which neither language was placed in a position of primacy, was brought to life by Kara Hart, systems librarian. Kara wrote custom CSS code to enable the two versions of the texts to flow around the study image on each page of the exhibit. Supplementary images were formatted as pop-up notes in Scalar to allow the main hairstyle image to remain in a position of prominence, and to maintain a streamlined, uniform look across the exhibit.
Tasks involved in the production of the exhibit included: processing, uploading, naming, and creating metadata for each primary and supplementary image; creating, organizing, and making pathways between individual pages of the exhibit; pasting and editing text in source/html mode in order to manage it within the correct CSS-controlled containers; and formatting paragraphs, italics, hyperlinks, notes, citations, French-style quotation marks, etc.
There are tradeoffs involved in the decision as to whether to employ enrolled student labor in the final production of exhibits such as this or whether to leverage other forms of labor, such as paid student assistants or staff. For this assignment/project, the primary pedagogical focus was research and analysis, and not learning a new web publishing platform. A similar assignment could be crafted to involve the students themselves in the production of the final digital exhibit; this would require the dedication of additional time and instructional support, likely at the expense of other important elements of the curriculum. There is no one best answer to this tradeoff; the decision depends on many factors, such as the pedagogical goals of the assignment, the accessibility of the platform, and the availability of paid student or professional staff to perform the digital labor required.