Management of Cultural Property at the BnF

Ever since the reign of King Francis I, and especially with the development policy upheld by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and his successors, the BnF has been perceived of as a universal library. The foreign collections resulting from this original commitment are relatively unmatched anywhere else in the world in terms of the depth of time and geographic scope they cover, as well as their substantial volume. Together, they provide insight into the diversity of world cultures and knowledge, forming heritage which is a common good of humankind.
Truyện Nhị Ðộ Mai dịch ra quốc-ngữ, 1926 - BnF, Literature and Art Department

These collections are of major interest to research communities across the world. They are of particular importance to individuals, groups of individuals and territories in which they were produced and represent essential sources for the formation, knowledge and understanding of their cultural identity. This is why, for a number of years, the BnF has been conducting an active policy of partnerships with other heritage and research institutions abroad in order to increase access to such collections. The BnF is also developing its scientific collaboration on the international scene in order to piece back together the history and provenance of these collections and to foster a shared interpretation of them.

A changing relationship with knowledge and remembrance is leading to an ever-greater demand for accessibility. Digital technology is a powerful catalyst for meeting this demand. It is vastly increasing the breadth of opportunities for showcasing and disseminating collections, while also paving the way for both renewed cooperation and new digital hosting methods for researchers and the general public alike. It is also providing access to heritage that has been dispersed and, thus, far removed from the cultural environment in which it was produced and for which it continues to be relevant. Lastly, it is an opportunity for the institution to explore its history and relationship to the world and to underscore a time-honoured universalistic commitment.

In light of this new intellectual context and technological order, the BnF wishes to reaffirm its ambitions in terms of both the accessibility and the dialogue regarding this shared heritage by publishing its key management principles and making information about the initiatives in progress to promote them publicly available. The collections created and produced outside national territory are concerned first and foremost, whether it is a question of identifying their provenance, interpreting both their own history and the shared history of their meanings or ensuring their scientific and digital dissemination.

Pentateuch (manuscript, 1353) - BnF, Department of Manuscripts

On a final note, because these collections have been produced and used in societies wrestling with change and conflict, they may be subject to contemporary remembrance-related claims. They are therefore underpinned by a specific management framework, defined in accordance with the rules governing the public domain, as well as the international treaties and conventions signed by France.

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