The initial program


The cluster of excellence The pasts in the present: history, heritage, memory is engaged with the presence of the past in contemporary society and with its transformations in the digital age. It inscribes this central inquiry in a robust reflection on the forms of appropriation of the past in all epochs.

The common and interdisciplinary reflection is organized in two closely linked themes. The first, “Relations to the past: representations and evaluations”, leads a global analysis of representations of the past. More specifically, it studies the uses and social appropriations of cultural and scholarly mediations of history, the transformation of the relationship to sources for history, politics, heritage or memorial mechanisms and their impact, the ordinary relationship to the past. The second theme, “Active knowledge of the past: practices and tools of transmission,” aims to make available to several types of audiences new digital collections dealing with facets of ancient, medieval, modern classical, or early 20th century history, or even history of the present. This theme aims to reflect on practices and uses induced by these new systems. One part of these collections is directly concerned with research archives (notably, the history of archeology, ethnology, and ethnomusicology).

Firmly established in the digital humanities, the cluster planned to enter these corpora in the web ecosystem of data. Containing images, texts, and sound, these collections required computer modeling using international standards for representing data, enriching metadata, and indexing. It also resulted in critical reflection on the epistemological and political challenges around the digital organization of knowledge. Subjects are common to these two themes, such as modalities and the effects of mediating the First World War. Finally, the cluster of excellence developed numerous educational synergies on its themes.  

Ranked 1st in the second call for “labex” projects, this program has benefited from state subvention (ANR-11-LABX-0026-01) managed by National Research Agency under its “Future Investments” program.

Two main research themes

Relations to the past: representations and evaluations

With this theme, the cluster of excellence proposed to drive a global analysis of representations of the past in all time periods (ancient, medieval, Renaissance, 17-20th centuries, contemporary). It draws from different fields of knowledge (history, sociology, anthropology, ethnology, philology, political science), including, more recently, those developed around memory (memory studies.)

A first series of research analyzed the processes of establishing collective memory (through every period since antiquity) and/or patrimonialization under the title “The forms of representation in every period.”

A second series of research is committed to describing and understanding appropriations of the past by socially differentiated audiences, both “upstream” and “downstream” from heritage policies, memorial actions, gestures of mediating history: investigations on the ordinary relationship to the past, upstream; investigations on the reception, appropriation, uses, downstream Particular attention is paid to the effects of appropriation specific to each instrument of mediation:  exhibitions, digital portals, historical simulation, commemorative sites, etc.

Finally, collective research conducted in preparation of the development of cluster digital projects, works to elaborate datasets of reference and modes of interoperability adapted to mediations of history in the digital age.

Active Knowledge of the Past: Practices and Tools of Transmission

This second project aims to make available several categories of audiences of new digital corpora pertaining to chapters of history: ancient, medieval, classical period, beginning of the 20th century, the contemporary period.

It deals with documentary collections conserved on the campus of Paris Nanterre (Archives service of the Maison Archéologie et Ethnologie René-Ginouvès, Bibliothèque de documentation internationale contemporaine, Eric de Dampierre Library (LESC), Prehistory and technology laboratory) as well as the French National Library (BnF), the National Museum of Archeology (MAN), and the Quai Branly Museum. Several of these corpora concern the disciplinary histories (ethnology and ethnomusicology, art history, history of texts). Finally, a collection of oral sources is being carried out in the framework of research on the history of the present or intangible heritage, such as musical heritage.