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  • The Commission de Topographie des Gaules project

The current Commission de Topographie des Gaules (CTG) research project was born of a partnership between the labex research project Les passés dans le présent (ANR-11-LABX-0026-01) and the musée d'Archéologie nationale – Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye (MAN), the home of numerous documents linked to the CTG.

The initial objective

The project was initiated in 2012 by Christian Landes, then chief curator at the musée d'Archéologie nationale, and Françoise Bérard, general curator of the museum’s libraries. The aim of the project was to identify the role of the commission, created by Napoleon III, in the scientific universe of the second half of the 19th century, using documents conserved at the MAN and the Archives nationales. Above all, it was intended to understand the practices used by the CTG to record its data.

Unexpected developments

The gradual discovery of a colossal amount of documentation, both complex and widely dispersed, inspired the idea to rebuild the archives of documents produced by the CTG members, supervisors and administration, and by the scholarly societies which collaborated with it for the achievement of the emperor’s goals. The analysis of these items today allows us not only to measure more accurately the scale, range, impact and results of the commission’s work, but also to understand the CTG’s role in the creation of heritage policy.

In August 2017, at the end of the first phase of the research project, it was clear that the activities of the CTG and its correspondents represented the transformation of archaeology from an activity in the hands of enlightened amateurs into an organised and ambitious national project.