CE27 - Culture, créations, patrimoine

The geo-localization of a digital archive: the Gaignières Collection – ANG-G

Submission summary

ANG-G: The geo-localization of a digital archive: the Gaignières Collection

The main objective of the ANG-G project is to create an interface that will allow the exploratory cartography of one of the richest documentary collections ever assembled concerning the medieval and modern history of families, territories and European patrimony. The Gaignières Collection, housed mainly at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bodleian Library in Oxford, is the work of a single man whose methods of research and classification offer a totally new vision of the history of patrimony embedded within its territory, just as the Age of Enlightenment is dawning.
Both a traveler and a scholar, Gaignières had the fundamentally new idea of making an archival, archaeological, artistic and sociological inventory of France within a European perspective. He even extended his enquiry to China. For forty years, aided by his draftsman Louis Boudan and his scribe-palaeographer Barthélemy Rémy, he set down on paper copies of charters and drawings of monuments and surrounding landscapes, intent on describing a world that would disappear. By so doing, Gaignières has handed down to us an instantaneous portrait of 17th-century France and, more systematically, northern France (thousands of texts and over 7500 drawings). While he personally explored the Capetian territories of northern France, he created networks of scholars and acquired books, manuscripts and engravings concerning the southern French provinces and foreign realms. As the Englishman Martin Lister would note with wonderment in 1698, “He has all of Europe arranged in categories.” Fortunately his legacy has escaped the ravages of a Revolution and two world wars.
An inspired archivist, Gaignières invented a system of classification that conformed to his encyclopedic vision of history and its relationship to territory. By making several identical copies to be filed in his different dossiers on topography, institutions, families, heraldry, costume, etc., and by using cross-references, he was able to create new relationships and vary the scale of observation, thus breathing life into the documentation. Such a documentary procedure, one that carves, structures, and interlinks open and evolving fields, confers on the textual copy or drawing a meaning that is never unequivocal or exclusive. In a word, his collection is original to the point of anticipating in many respects today’s computer databases.
Although this exceptional collection was dismantled after the death of the antiquary and dispersed in the different departments of the Bibliothèque nationale and the Bodleian Library, Oxford, the original early 18th-century inventories have enabled its virtual reconstruction on a special website, Collecta. Archive numérique de la collection Gaignières. Having recaptured a total vision of the collection with the website, the ANG-G project will now allow us to discover its riches in an entirely new way by offering the possibility of visualizing its texts and objects on ancient or more recent maps by varying the scale of observation, the time-frame, and the criteria of interrogation. The development of the interface by a cross-disciplinary team of historians, art historians, geohistorians and designers, its linkage to the geo-referenced semantic-web platform Oronce-Fine, and the creation of a window for non-scholarly participation will allow a diversified array of scholars and amateurs to re-appropriate this extraordinary collection as a source for research and a vector for the knowledge of regional patrimony, whether still extant or vanished.

Project coordination

François Bougard (Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


Università Ca' Foscari di Venezia / Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici
ARCHE Arts, civilisation et histoire de l'Europe
ACTE Arts, Créations, Théories, Esthétiques
ArScAn Archéologies et Sciences de l’Antiquité
Equipe de recherche de l'Ecole du Louvre
IRHT Institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes

Help of the ANR 358,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2019 - 36 Months

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