La phonothèque (record Library)
Bringing life to objects
"I open the downstairs door, I cross the hall, I go upstairs,
right-hand door, I press the door bell… Marthe are you there ? I
hear the lock, the door opens, her white hair appears, she has changed
her glasses, she looks younger.
The mike is on the table, she knows I am taping and she doesn't
Taping, what for ? For keepsake, like the collector who while searching
exhaustively to increase the amount of objects collected with the
secret and unhappy knowledge that the ultimate collection is unattainable
? To enrich a field of knowledge, like the ethnologist who collects
to obtain the maximum representative data which will enable him
to define a sense, a symbolism, sets a behaviour linked to a group ?
I started going to meet the previous participants of the lace
industry as I was asking myself about which message should be transmitted
to the visitor of a social museum such as the Lace Manufactures'
Museum. All the objects of the collection seem very dull, very dusty.
They were not telling me anything worthy, save maybe about death,
times past and gone. They remained mute because nothing came to
enlighten their function or their use, could one just stick a succinct
note, a date and an inventory number.
In short, I could not find anything to intimately link me with
their presence. The thread I was looking for was not made of linen.
I had to go ahead and meet men and women to receive the gift of
their friendly words describing the course of their life by then
the objects were making sense again.
The justification of museums is to have a mission to communicate,
added to their conservation aim so that the men remain more valuable
than their objects, those being nothing more than essential mediators."
Ethnologue for the museum
Within the Phonothèque the Lace Manufactures' Museum collects
and keeps recordings and transcriptions from the testimonies and
life histories of the people having had a link with the lace history.
To this day, the museum gathers 66 audio recordings concerning
lace-makers, accountants, managers, supervisors, machinists who
assembled lace or who finished the linen items either in the workshop
or at home, the people who collected the lace, the designers and
the circular braiding machinists.
"When I had a spare moment having finished
my chores, well I sat myself down because I couldn't stay doing
Mrs B., lacemaker born in 1904, Valprivas
"When we took our first communions
we could make lace. Me, I know that I learned the "points d'esprit"
when I was 12. It is still difficult !"
Miss A., lacemaker and machinist, born in 1904, Retournac
pay, you know !"
Mrs S., lacemaker born in 1915, Mézères
"My mother dressed us with lace money,
we were a little of those who were well dressed."
Mrs D., lacemaker born in 1908, Rosières
"One year I trained 13 apprentices
they were all getting married, they stayed on for 3 or 4 years and
then they got married, they left."
Mrs V., manager born in 1909, Retournac
"We celebrated the gold medal in 1937
in the International Exhibition in Paris. Each one lifted her cup
and pocketed 1000 francs, an amount of money which was welcomed
and appreciated by all."
Mrs M., machinist born in 1920, Saint-Gervais-sur-Roubion
Passing on the testimony
This gathering work is vital to the documentation of the museum's
collections and for their mediation. The assembled statements
are communicated to all through several biases.
The exhibitions :
"Paroles Discrètes - Le Témoignage oral au Musée" (Discreet words, the oral testimony in the museum), Saison 1999-2000
The publications :
Works being published in the collection "Regards sur une vie"(Inside look on a life) which give the different
participants of the profession a chance to speak. Their speach is
neither embellished nor novelised. Beside the story numerous, notes
and pictures bring precisions and complementary informations to
the breached themes.
N°1 : Marthe Alibert, lacemaker and machinist
N°2 : Rose Ouilhon, lace collector