Claire Barbillon (École du Louvre): “We are not going to create a virtual Louvre school, nor offer incorporeal courses”

On March 11, you inaugurated new spaces in the École du Louvre. Why was this transformation necessary?

We are lucky enough to have a wing and a cellar right next to the Louvre. We have been located in this property since 1998. From 2017 I wanted a triangulation between school, museum and library. For me it is important that students discover what the book allows and that they can study in good conditions. I was inspired by my travels, especially in Canada, to revise this environment by bringing more coziness, modernity.

The goal we had in mind it was to reconfigure the school with new spaces in the Louvre itself† We wanted to renovate the library to make it the third place in the life of a student at the School. We also wanted to create a research center for our PhD students and redevelop spaces such as the cafeteria, the documentary and the IT departments.

I met Majid Boustany, who was seduced by this transformation project and agreed to become our patron. He helped us with 2.5 million euros to redecorate the library and cafeteria. We were also able to replace a space intended for the photo library – where slides were kept but no longer used – with a research center and a digital data room.

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You have been president of the Ecole du Louvre since 2017 and you have started your second term. How do you intend to work on the development of your establishment?

I prefer to talk about growth rather than development. Because for us, the priority remains professional integration. So we have to be reasonable on the number of students, so as not to get blown away. The requirement remains just as fundamental, it is our priority. That said, we are planning the deployment of new degrees.

Majid Boustany helped us with 2.5 million euros to redecorate the library and cafeteria.

But as I often say, the school works thanks to its two legs: higher education and free auditors† However, cultural development is a necessity for the school. This makes people feel more comfortable taking advantage of heritage. Since this aspect is relatively underdeveloped in high school, we offer training, evening classes and even in the regions. It is essential to continue in this direction.

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Has the health crisis also refocused your strategy?

All the way. Our challenge is to form a digital campus. We realized during the incarceration that we had no resources or resources. We had to settle there to ensure an educational follow-up and to compensate for the absence of classes in the amphitheater. From now on we are calmer and see all the improvements this can bring to pedagogy.

We see digital as an extra tool that can be used during lessons, not as a replacement. For example, it can complete an education system or reach new listeners. On the other hand, face-to-face is irreplaceable for TDOs (work aimed at a work in museums). We are therefore not going to create a virtual Louvre school or offer disembodied courses.

A year ago, the students had expressed their unease by pointing out the lack of attention from management during the health crisis. What do you say about today?

If I may add a nuance, only about thirty students have made themselves heard, mainly in the press, of the 1,600 we count. We did a lot during the crisis: personalized links with newcomers, handing out food stamps, offering free medical service… We also have a person dedicated to the dialogue with students to list all the difficulties, a student delegation system, also a psychologist. This allows you to record the temperature.

The school works thanks to its two legs: higher education and free auditors

We wanted to maintain the dialogue with the students by offering open meetings so that everyone could express themselves. We’ve strengthened the guidance of freshmen to help them learn the school method and we’ve set it up for sophomores to reassure them. And because the final exams are terrifying for them, we also set up mock exams. This is how we increased the success rate.

Anyway, it is true that the rate of professional integration is falling. We were at 85% and in 2021 we went to 82%. It is very destabilizing because, nevertheless, we have redoubled our efforts to offer professionalization internships, integration lunches, round tables… I think the integration rate will increase as France remains a country where heritage is valued.

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You also have the ambition to develop internationally. How does this translate concretely for students?

First of all, we have multiplied international partnerships and we have very solid with double degrees† These are bilateral exchanges, depending on the specialties offered by the other branches. This can be complementary and/or prestige-related, as is the case at Columbia University in New York. We also had to develop a partnership with India, but the health crisis has severely handicapped the project.

In terms of international mobility, it is now recommended but not mandatory in the Ecole du Louvre. Students have to do a long internship in the fifth year, which they can do abroad. However, we do not intend to mandate mobility. lThe Louvre school is not a school for the privilegedone in three students has a scholarship, many have to work.

lThe Louvre school is not a school for the privilegedone in three students has a scholarship, many have to work.

We cannot tell them to put their work aside for half a year or a year, otherwise they will need scholarships. Erasmus’s are not enough, even though it is a system that we adhere to and that is very important for the school. We must therefore find private grants, patrons, to develop mobility and democratize access to school, it is a daily task.

Can the Louvre School still renew itself after 140 years?

We innovate thanks to our teachers who are all part-timers. We welcome 800 professionals a year. And then there are new museums, new policies, new diplomas…

For example, we will be offering two new post-master’s degree programs with effect from the academic year 2022 and 2023. A year of preparation for the thesis to choose the right subjects, the right working methods. It will be a bac+6 that will be recognized by the establishment. This should make it possible to shorten the turnaround time of the dissertation, I’m betting on that.

This already exists in England, the Netherlands, Belgium, but not in France. Some students don’t go any further, it’s exactly the opportunity to see if we are made for research because you must love, I know what I’m talking about!

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