Interview with Claire Barbillon

Director of the École du Louvre

Why have major works been planned for the École du Louvre in 2021?

Although the school is fortunate to enjoy some outstanding premises, created in 1998 under the direction of Antoine Stinco as part of the Grand Louvre project, now, almost a quarter of a century after that extensive redevelopment, there are new and compelling demands facing the school. These relate to the growth of the school itself, to developments in education, changes in student practices, the roll-out of research and the ongoing development of digital technology in the fields of teaching and library science.    

It is these factors that have led to the establishment of the ÉCOLE DU LOUVRE 2021 project, which aims to redevelop the library and associated services, create a research centre and renovate the cafeteria.

A new library?

The École du Louvre library, housed on the lower level, was designed as a traditional study and research library at the end of the last century and needs to be rethought as a modern study and research complex at the heart of the school and its teaching.  

When they begin studying at the École du Louvre, students know that they will be using the teaching rooms and the museum rooms. Moving back and forth between the two is in our very ‘DNA’. But, in fact, the library is the third key location for students at the school; it is not just an essential part of student life, it is a place of intellectual autonomy, facilitating a sensitive approach to art through reading and research and enabling our students to gain a deeper understanding of what they see – it complements their classes, tutorials and seminars.  

Today, a library is no longer simply a place where one goes to read. It is still very much that, but it is also a great deal more. The modern libraries of international universities must offer multimedia consultation spaces, free access to books, dedicated digital research tools, the facility to work as a group or alone – all this in spaces that are ergonomic, aesthetically pleasing and eco-friendly. This is what the École du Louvre project is about.

The redevelopment of the documentation and IT services, with the expansion and restructuring of documentation spaces, also forms part of the programme of works, in order to provide suitable spaces in which activities can continue to develop.

A research centre at the École du Louvre?

Research and teaching go hand in hand. In any higher teaching establishment, the two are interlinked, and it is my personal belief, as someone who has spent many years as a teacher and researcher, that one never gives a better class than when that class stems from the research work one is doing alongside one’s teaching. My predecessor, Philippe Durey, was convinced that we needed to raise the profile of research being done at the school, specific research that leads to a closer knowledge of the museum’s collections, object biographies, museology and so on. He created a research team which has gone from strength to strength, not only facilitating research projects involving a large number of partners, but also providing support to doctoral students through methodology workshops, topical seminars, individual support, etc. I should like to see us take a further step forward in this with the creation of a genuine research centre, with offices and the facilities for welcoming researchers from abroad. This will bring an additional dynamic to our project development!

A cafeteria?

For the life of our community, our enrolled students, teachers and researchers with no other point of social interaction, the cafeteria has a crucial role to play! Our present cafeteria is extremely busy and very much enjoyed, but we feel that its facilities could be improved. For reasons of space, we shall never be able to transform it completely into a true catering facility, but the plan is to turn it into an imaginative, fully connected ‘third place’ offering a space for conversation and discussion along with many other alternative uses.

How is such a project to be funded?

A project like this would not have been possible without the support of a patron.

In this ambitious programme of works, the redevelopment of the library and the creation of the research centre have been made possible by Mr Majid Boustany, founder and president of the Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation, who is providing the greatest support ever received by a teaching institution under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture.