The CCFr met …
Emmanuelle Toulet, director of the Historical Library of the city of Paris.
What is the history of the Cocteau fund and its inventory?
French literature of the twentiethe century has always featured prominently in our establishment. The entry into our collections in 1990 of the Guillaume Apollinaire Library and then the donation of the Michel Décaudin fund, subsequently triggered other donations and sales of beneficiaries such as those of the Jean Cocteau fund finalized in 2002. The personal library of the poet was thus ceded by his adopted son Edouard Dermit, as well as a large part of his personal archives. Donations from Pierre Bergé were added in 2006, followed by regular enrichments. An enormous mass of documents (20 linear meters), repackaged in folders and boxes of different formats, was then inventoried, giving rise to more than 9,000 dimensions and 10,000 components.
The process of integrating and processing this data was carried out in several stages: initially in Word, then in an imposing Excel file. Everything was converted back to EAD in 2015 by the company Aurexus to be worked on Oxygen XML and then on TapIR in 2019. This last installment was then subdivided in 2020 creating the 4 current inventories.
The posting on the CGM was made in accordance with that of the portal of the specialized libraries of the city of Paris allowing federated research. Updates, additions to purchases, corrections are made quarterly on our databases and are immediate on the CCFr, the descriptive notice of the Fund Directory linking all the information.
And what are their specificities?
The continuity of the task requiring not to multiply the interveners, it is a single person who led the operation of description of the inventory almost from start to finish.
And it is impossible to describe the Coctelian correspondence piece by piece! It was necessary to constantly adapt: the 15,000 letters produced 4,000 components.
In addition, the fund has certain complexities. Cocteau slipped multiple documents (selected pieces, letters, notes, handwritten texts, invitations) over the pages of the hundred or so notebooks that make up his diary. These ancillary documents were able to be revealed in the other inventories thanks to the tree-structure processing, which was then very useful.
There will remain, while avoiding cataloging them one by one, the integration of photographic documents in each corresponding part, scheduled for 2022, for more than 10,000 items. For example, the shots of the film The beauty and the Beast will be in the Works.
No visual document could be put online because this collection, which has not yet entered the public domain, remains strictly linked to copyright. All use for publication, reproduction, digitization is subject to the authorization of the Cocteau Committee. The existence of a complete inventory therefore compensates for these procedures. The past defined, Jean Cocteau’s journal, published by Gallimard, has been purged of personal data while certain scans have been carried out for the edition of his correspondence with Picasso.
The work of Cocteau, highly prolific in many fields, requires a coherence of conservation and visibility. The artistic part, with its paintings, is on donation at the Museum of Modern Art of the city of Paris. Ceramics and pottery are kept at the Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton, and all literary themes at the BHVP.
How to best manage the publication of such inventories?
For this, the BHVP is seeking 15 agents, of all categories, from our different poles. How do we do it? These vast operations require downstream preparation: priorities are decided internally to carry out these cataloging projects. A collective line of conduct for the levels of description, via EAD working groups, standardizes practices and defines our uses.
We must try to simplify as much as possible, without harming the researcher in any way, in order to obtain short publication deadlines. Some elements will thus be discarded: the dimensions of a document are not important to find it in the inventory. An overall philosophy is essential: indicate date ranges to give leads. In addition, the global indexing of names, for the Cocteau collection, was done a posteriori to avoid delaying publication.
TapIR saves us a lot of time and efficiency because instead of doing long research, we get the information straight away. The requester immediately knows what one has and does not have. Loans such as that of a manuscript for the Gabrielle Chanel exhibition at the Palais Galliera Fashion Museum are thus possible within fairly short deadlines. On the other hand, the researchers were able to acquire more autonomy, which considerably favors their work. The Cocteau collection, like other equally important ones, is very regularly consulted on its whole at the BHVP or on line for dissertations, theses and various publications by users of the whole world.
The Fund Directory, an essential gateway, also allows us to point out resources to inventories that have not yet been published, which avoids unnecessary waiting and offers essential first leads.