Printed History (video)

In spring 2017, HDCS students partnered with the DT + AMT programs (Design, Art, Media, and Technology) to produce project proposals for the MAD (Musée des Arts Décoratifs). This project was conceived by Forrest Pelsue (MA HDCS), Vicky Chau (BFA AMT) and Esther Klingbiel (BFA AMT).

Sources, a museum journal for decorative arts & design

 Sources is conceived as a quarterly publication that takes a new room, object, or collection as its focus in each issue. Its transitory display and changing topics may motivate the public to visit more regularly, as well as encouraging museum-goers to find new perspectives in the permanent collection, which is often widely under-serviced in terms of regularly published scholarship. Another significant scheme for the journal is that it be available in both French and English. This will expand the potential audience, as well as support translation of primary documents between the two languages, contributing to the expansion of available sources in each. In this way, the publication becomes more than a new analysis of a specific object or collection: it increases the accessibility of information in general.

The materiality of our project makes it unique. It is a tangible document that allows visitors to connect directly with primary sources. In the format of a journal, these sources are rendered less dense and more aesthetically stimulating through graphic design. Innovative layouts and interesting imagery bring historic records into the present, and their content adds context to the objects on display. By connecting period rooms or furniture pieces to the social, political, or economic circumstances surrounding their creation via documents created in the same era, the visitor is given alternative opportunities to understand what they see.

Curatorial statement: Behind the scenes of Louis Süe and Andre Mare’s Salle à Manger

While it’s easy to imagine sophisticated men and women sipping cocktails by the sideboard or clinking glasses at the table in this elegant dining room, it’s harder to imagine where their dinner was coming from, or who was washing the dishes afterward.

What dishes were cooked, and who served them? These questions lead us behind the gilded décor and into grimmer areas of life in 1920s France. Cookbooks from the time period give us a taste of what would have been on the table, and these recipes reveal a trend for exotic dishes. The rise of haute cuisine coincided with an influx of new ingredients imported from colonial regions. Novelties like Pineapple Fritters and soup ‘à l’indienne’ appeared at stylish restaurants and chic dinner parties, but these fashionable flavors were linked to the suppression and exploitation of entire nations.

Such disparity was not restricted to the colonies, but also permeated interwar France, where conservative sentiment swelled in the wake of World War I. Women in particular struggled to establish themselves as a socially significant party, although they would not gain the right to vote in France until after the Second World War. With limited options, many single women found employment as domestic servants, doing the daily chores while their bourgeois employers enjoyed Les Années Folles. Class tensions rose to a climax in 1933, with the gruesome murder of a woman and her daughter at the hands of their maids, Christine and Léa Papin. Their trial was dramatically recounted in a Parisian newspaper, and this article evidences the violence hidden beneath the polished surface of domestic life.

For more information about collaborative classes, see the course listing here.