This project is devoted to an industrial material, aluminium. It was discovered and isolated in the midth of the 19th century. If aluminium, which was a creation of Science, has succeeded to become the most used of metals, it is because its physical properties and its appearance have arouse interest from scientists and engineers, but also because it has excited its users’ imagination and even attracted various creators. They have converted aluminium in a material for the contemporary creation.
Our project aims to put some light on the processes, actors and realizations related to this many-sided “creation” of a material, its industry and uses. Indeed, aluminium may be considered as a « laboratory of creation » ; its quite late discovery eases an historical enquiry about its very beginning, its proto-industrialization and its main scientific and technical evolutions (alloys, nano-elements, etc.). The program will also study the creation and spectacular growth of an industrial sector, from the bauxite mining to the end-products, the development of its markets (transportation, packaging, construction…), its reception and various forms of appropriations by users and consumers.
A multidisciplinary approach will allow a new comprehension of the factors, dynamics and interactions of science and technology, societies, cultures and geographical areas. Classical sources for historians like archive will be completed by two prestigious artifact Collections : The Gregoire Automotive Collection and the Jean Plateau Collection which gathers around 25,000 pieces illustrating the history of innovation and uses of aluminium in fine arts, design, houseware and many other fields from the mid-19th Century to our time. At the very moment where the aluminium industry is threatened to disappear from Europe, the preservation and enhancement of this “heritage of creation” is at stake.
The scientific program is built on four main issues :
1) Modalities and actors of the creation of a material and an industry : from chemical aluminium to nanotechnologies, interactions between science, technology, economy, 19-21th centuries.
2) Invention of practices and markets : R&D, innovation, social expectations, diffusion (transports, architecture, design, packaging, everyday life...)
3) The imaginary of aluminium, its realizations and actors : how did inventors, engineers, craftsmen and artists dream of and create this material?
4) The conversion of this material into a heritage object : preservation and valorization of aluminium cultural heritage, material and immaterial - stakes, methods, tools. The management of this heritage, the research and its valorization strongly lean on the development of innovative tools : databanks and multimedia platforms.
Monsieur FRIDENSON Patrick (ECOLE DES HAUTES ETUDES EN SCIENCES SOCIALES)
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.
TELEMME AIX-MARSEILLE UNIVERSITE
CERTOP CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA RECHERCHE SCIENTIFIQUE - DELEGATION REGIONALE MIDI-PYRENEES
EHESS - CRH ECOLE DES HAUTES ETUDES EN SCIENCES SOCIALES
CRM UNIVERSITE DE PARIS IV
Help of the ANR 329,953 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: - 48 Months