L'Inguimbertine, a unique cultural project

Carpentras (Vaucluse). “Inguimbertine”: this strange name has entered daily use in Carpentras. “We hear young people saying: “Are we going to Inguimbertine this afternoon?” This library is a real success,” welcomes Jean-Yves Baudouy, deputy director of the premises. In 2017, the first phase of renovation of the Hôtel-Dieu was delivered, with the library part of this center planned in two parts. In an old wing of the old hospital, the bright and welcoming reading room has attracted the local public: the library had 7,000 subscribers, and 13,000 visits in 2023. Video games, films, music studio attract a young audience. , which is also presented in the presence of antique statuettes, presented in small display cases in the middle of the shelves, or large landscape paintings visible from the mezzanine. A preview of the opening of the museum scheduled for April 19, and the last part of the construction site: “The goal is to show in the library, and to read in the museum”mischievously summarizes Marc Issepi, co-founder of Atelier Novembre, who led this architectural transformation.

A disproportionate collections project

The scientific and cultural project written by Jean-François Delmas (former director, now at the Château de Compiègne), is based on the originality of the “museum library” model. At the origin of the museum's exceptional collections, a certain Dom Malachie, bishop of Carpentras from 1735 to 1757, known under the name of Jean-Dominique d'Inguimbert. Born in Carpentras, the latter spent a good part of his life in Rome, where he was the confessor and librarian of the future Pope Clement XII. Back in his hometown, he built the Hôtel-Dieu, and bequeathed his entire immense collection – 18,000 works, medals, paintings, furniture, etc. – to the City. “One of the very first public cultural establishments in France”underlines Jean-Yves Baudouy.

The Inguimbertine library-museum in Carpentras.

Photo Takuji Shimmura

Long scattered across ten reserve sites and three exhibition venues, this collection was undervalued. Thus, of the 35 million euros invested in the overhaul of the library museum, and its move to the Hôtel-Dieu, 4 million were devoted to the major collections project, revealing works which had sometimes not been seen since a century. “Each book, each object has been seen and, depending on the case, has been the subject of in-depth treatment,” indicates the deputy director of the museum. Some 150,000 objects to process, the task was titanic for the town of 30,000 inhabitants: “The building and the collections are out of scale for an average city. It’s a library museum that you would rather expect to find in Aix or Montpellier”, whispers the conservation officer. The State largely supported the City in supporting this extraordinary project (4 million out of 17 for the second tranche), supported by local authorities.

Three museums in one

The particular history of the town, capital of Comtat Venaissin, explains the initial legacy, perpetuated by other donors in the following centuries. On the first floor of the museum, the tour opens with a historical and geographical contextualization retracing the history of this Papal State in the middle of the Kingdom of France, home to a large Jewish community.

The scenography plays on very different atmospheres to delimit three sequences dictated by the collections: almost three museums within the museum. The didactic tone of the rooms dedicated to the territory thus leaves room for the darkness of a library, treated in period room (see ill.) The furniture in recycled boxes prized by the 18th century bishop – who was more interested in the content than the container – is reused, deploying walls lined with works.

Hôtel-Dieu de Carpentras.  © Jean-Louis Zimmermann, 2010, CC BY 2.0

The Hôtel-Dieu in Carpentras.

A grid system fixed in front of the libraries enriches this immersive exhibition of visual works. With the presentation of open volumes, the route remains digestible, not overwhelming the visitor. Some nuggets are thus better presented, such as a very rare Vaudois bible from the 14th century, of which only seven copies remain today. The openings on the reserves, scattered at the end of the wings, allow the visitor to understand that the rooms only present the tip of the iceberg.

Highlighting the Fine Arts collection

The third part of the permanent exhibition is a Museum of Fine Arts, which takes advantage of the entire length of the south wing and its natural light to present a large continuum of white picture rails and sober display cases, whose unfolding and Sequencing is not always obvious. The display highlights the strong points of the collections: the 17th century portrait – with a beautiful Hyacinthe Rigaud, but also the local painter Joseph Siffred-Duplessis –, the 19th century Italianate landscapes, with the Carpentrasian Jean-Joseph-Xavier Bidauld . Fish shop by Frans Snyders as well as an anonymous adoration of the Magi from the end of the 15th century show the historical depth and quality of the collections.

A remarkable work in the building opens the visit: the monumental staircase of the old hospital, all in stereotomy, suspended in the air. The entrance to the museum is nevertheless behind this exceptional masonry, reserving the climb of the steps for a private space, also devoted to temporary exhibitions. The architectural intervention, discreet and anchored in the history of the place, is here mishandled by the constraints of the program: the Carpentras collections deserve access via this “quasi-royal” staircase, rather than the blind and tortuous route provided today. 'today.

Similar Posts