Art and Museum Libraries of Nice

By SantaVicca, Edmund F. | Special Libraries, Spring 1991 | Go to article overview

Art and Museum Libraries of Nice


SantaVicca, Edmund F., Special Libraries


Knowledge of foreign library collections, resources and services can be of value to scholars, researchers, historians, scientists, librarians and curators who have exhausted all available local, regional and national resources--yet still have not located needed information. Pertinent collections and sources of information might exist in other countries, but their presence, nature, and availability sometimes remain unknown. In an attempt to aid progress in research efforts and reference queries, this article offers an overview of the administration and staffing, collections, and services of museum and art libraries in Nice, France. Following this overview are descriptive profiles of 23 collections and other resources available to researchers around the world.

With a population of approximately 360,000 (results of the 1990 census are in progress), Nice has long been an artistic and cultural center of Southeast France. In addition to a public library with 15 branches, a university with four major campuses, and numerous national schools or conservatories of music, theater, and art, the city currently boasts 17 municipal galleries and museums. Many private museums and galleries also are located in the city and surrounding area. Key names associated with science, art, and culture--J. B. Barla, Picasso, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse, Cocteau, Mossa, Jakovsky, Maeght--have lived, worked, sojourned, or maintained other connections with the area.

Although in recent times library collections have needed increased funding and staff, benefactors in the past were generous in their donations to museums and libraries. Consequently, art and museum library collections have continued to grow, and to develop and maintain rich quantities of primary and secondary source materials.

Administration and Staffing

Most of the libraries of public museums are administrative units of the museum. As such, they are directly responsible to the director or conservateur. In turn, the director reports to the appropriate municipal administrator for culture at the Action Culturelle Municipale, one of the administrative units of City Hall. This person is responsible for the administration of museums, galleries, and other cultural entities--e.g., opera, theater--of the city.

Such an administrative system allows for a maximum of autonomy in decision-making, collection development, and services offered by each museum. However, as the budget allocation for the library is included in the allocation for the museum, the museum director ultimately decides the relative priority of the library.

Private museums and libraries such as the Musee Franciscain or the Fondation Maeght, and national institutions such as the Musee Chagall and the Villa Arson, vary in their administrative organization according to the mission of the institution.

The majority of libraries or collections are staffed by one individual, who sometimes is responsible for other duties as well. Position titles range from conservateur to bibliothecaire (librarian) to documentaliste, with as many nuances as are found in U.S. libraries. In spite of differing titles, staff often perform duties of a similar nature. In general, documentalists will be trained more specifically in research, and in the provision of information regarding objects in the museum. They are also more likely to have additional subject-specialized training, and thus will aid in describing, or providing descriptions of works--key information that is needed for the preparation and editing of exhibition catalogs. Support staff are usually classed as adjoint, a title not always reflecting training, but rather speaking to position responsibilities.

The Association des Bibliothecaires Francais, a national organization similar to the American Library Association, has a sub-unit focused on art libraries. This unit has been quite successful in promoting lines of communication between art librarians throughout France.

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