Voir le passé : les atlas historiques de ville et l'administration du passé métropolitain au XIXe siècle
Title: Voir le passé : les atlas historiques de ville et l'administration du passé métropolitain au XIXe siècle
Author: VAN DAMME, Stéphane
Citation: Critique internationale, 2015, Vol. 3, No. 68, pp. 21-38
ISSN: 1290-7839; 1777-554X
In many European capitals, the nineteenth-century witnessed the rapid expansion of a phenomenon that is now commonly described as “heritage awareness”. In particular, this new sensibility was reflected in the gradual establishment of an institutional network devoted to administering the urban past. These undertakings were supported by municipal governments. Archives, historical libraries and municipal museums were established across Europe. By underscoring the difficulties involved in interpreting the urban past and a growing need to identify the metropolitan object on behalf of the broader public, a collection of scholars – architects, engineers, archeologists, geologists, paleontologists and botanists – addressed the unity of the urban space. Was it to be defined by its extent, its demographic density, its buildings, its economic and political functionality, its historic depth or its geological characteristics? Was it a natural territory as suggested by the thesis of major geological basins (Paris, London) and botanical research? Although all were united in taking an historical approach to their object, the diversity of the units of measurement they employed and the multiplicity of perspectives they brought to bear on their inquiries hampered the common undertaking of these various disciplines and groups of scholars. The historic atlas as an epistemic genre was particularly well-suited for this context and the plasticity and mobility of the analytical frameworks that characterized it.
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