Petition for the Gabriel Millet Collection

The Collection chrétienne et byzantine Gabriel Millet

(École Pratique des Hautes Études, Section des Sciences Religieuses, Paris)

is under threat!


To the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes

 

The rich Christian and Byzantine Collection (Collection chrétienne et byzantine) of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, more widely known as the Photothèque Millet in honour of its founder Gabriel Millet, consists of more than 100000 photographic documents. Millet, a great traveller and famous archeologist, historian, epigraphist and Hellenist as well as photographer, brought back thousands of notes, plans, copies of inscriptions, reproductions of sketches and paintings in watercolor, as well as a significant number of glass plate images from his many scientific campaigns. Millet photographed monuments, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, icons, pieces of jewelry, and embroideries. He traveled from Italy to Russia, via Dalmatia, Istria, Montenegro, Serbia, Greece, Macedonia, Mount Athos and Turkey, drawing to the attention of scholars the importance of the last centuries of Byzantium, in particular the Balkan monuments of Paleologan era. Today, some of those documents are the only surviving evidence of monuments and works of art which have since been destroyed in political conflicts, earthquakes or as consequence of time.

In 1899, Gabriel Millet deposited this material in the l'École Pratique des Hautes Études. Later on, he founded the Christian and Byzantine Collection of which he published a catalogue in 1903. More than 30000 glass plate images, prints and watercolors make up the core of what is certainly one of the most important collections in this field anywhere in the world. In 1938, Gabriel Millet entrusted his own collection to the École Pratique des Hautes Études. According to his wishes, other researchers, travellers and institutions subsequently added to the collection through new donations. These include Jean Clédat (Egypt), Guillaume de Jerphanion (Turkey, Cappadocia), Gertrude Bell (Turkey), the Academy of Sciences of Belgrade (Serbia), the Academy of Sciences of Skopje, the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres de Paris, the École française d’Athènes and the École biblique et archéologique française de Jérusalem, etc. This tradition continues to the present, with the contributions of various professors, and directors of the collection, such as André Grabar and Suzy Dufrenne.

This treasure is, however, now under threat. The safety and conservation of the material and the proper management of such a collection can no longer be assured. Conservation projects, undertaken with the support of Patrimoine sans frontières, have been interrupted, endangering the collection’s survival. The digitization of the archive undertaken by the Index of Christian Art in  Princeton University - a first installment of some 10000 slides has already been digitized - has been suspended, due to the lack of financial and human resources. These two factors prevent the preliminary work essential to digitization from being accomplished, namely the conservation, reconditioning, inventory, verification, and recording of documents.

To ensure the future of this unique repository and invaluable research tool, we the undersigned urgently ask for:

- the appointment of a person or persons who will manage the collection and continue to make it available for research

- the granting of a sum worthy of the collection’s patrimonial and scientific importance

- the guarantee that the collection will be conserved in accordance with the highest technical standards.

 


Catherine Jolivet-Lévy    Contact the author of the petition


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