Today, to enter 2014 with a light spirit, I have to present a ‘mea culpa’! I often despise the lack of well coordinated and thorough online resources when it comes to French fashion and costume museums as I harshly did in my post about the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Archives, arguing the Musée Galliera did not even have a proper website. Well, things have changed and I must admit I secretly imagined they have heard my many complaints…
Today, even though it is not pitch-perfect yet (but it’s a good start!), the Palais Galliera proposes an interesting and clear website on which, and that’s what I was mostly looking for, you can discover a few notable pieces from their rich collections. I know how prosperous and beautiful the museum’s storage rooms are and how I longed for this to happen. Of course, as I said: we’re only at the very start of a new movement, probably coinciding with the museum’s reopening, and only a little number of garments are pictured and documented but I’m glad nonetheless there’s a little something to eat.
I appreciate the minimalist and elegant aspect of the website that precisely narrates the story of the museum’s making, its history, its collections.
The Collections are organised within different categories: 18th Century Dress – 19th Century Costumes – Fashion of the first half of the 20th Century – Haute Couture – Contemporary Fashion – Undergarments – Accessories – Prints and Drawings – Photographies.
Each department is introduced by an engaging presentation that summarizes the key information that is to be known about the collection’s pieces. Simple and brief material, surely insufficient for researchers and professionals but an appropriate highlight for the public in general whom is given an insight on what happens behind the curtains.
Here are a few of my favourite works I explored on the museum’s website:
Each piece is precisely described and its story, when known, clearly told. I appreciate we are given the information on how the object made it into the collections.
An exquisite example of fashion meets art meets history:
I love that the Palais Galliera chose to present most objects with photographies taken within the storage rooms. It brings a je-ne-sais-quoi industrial feel. There is something very aesthetic in placing their stunning and delicate garments against a modernist steel background. It’s a radical choice that places the dress very far from their original contexts and use while it however installs them firmly within their present context, that is the museum and its ghostly yet romantic storage rooms.
The collections’ photographies, especially for the contemporary garments, are the result of a veritable mise-en-scène. Some pieces are even shown against the Palais’ exterior colonnade. A seductive decision that roots the objects in a playful and dramatic environment just like a fashion photo shoot would do with models. I wrote, above, that the storage room images placed the garments as museum objects, when the images taken outside or within other spaces of the Palais seem to bring them to life again. These online resources’ photographies themselves set the debate on conserved dress as ‘living’ fashion item or/and ‘dead’ museum object.
I have, unfortunately, not found the name of the photograph (s) who have worked on this project. I would have loved to as I really love the result…and they deserve to be quoted.
The online resources also provide the public with documentation such as drawings and contextual photographies.
The presence of museums and their collections online are to me essential: they are an indispensable tool to professionals and bring art into the living rooms of those who don’t or cannot pay a visit to their real-life spaces. I highly appreciate that French museums are (finally!) making an effort. We haven’t reached the standards of a MET or a V&A yet but I do hope this is only the very beginning of a profound reflection and questioning.
Do you agree? Do you think online resources are as important as I tend to think? Do you use them much?