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French Bibliothèque Nationale staff speak out agains return of Korean manuscripts

Following the recent announcement by France’s president that the Bibliothèque Nationale would return numerous looted manuscripts [1] to Korea has led to a backlash by librarians from the BNF. This issue (where the president makes decision without first discussing it with all stakeholders, followed by a subsequent backlash) is very similar to what happened with the Palermo fragment of the Parthenon Frieze [2] in 2006, whereby the Italian president stated that the fragment would be returned, but had not discussed this with the museum in Sicily which held it, leading to a very lengthy delay before the fragment finally arrived in Athens.

The BNF staff have responded by creating a petition against the return of the manuscripts.

From:
Jesigne [3]

Statut de la pétition

Declaration of On the fringes of G20 summit in Seoul, the President of the Republic has announced the return to South Korea of a vast collection of Korean manuscripts held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France since 1867. It should not be forgotten that copies of most of these manuscripts exist in Korea.

– the decision was taken against the advice of the Bibliothèque and of the Ministry of Culture, which for years have pleaded in favour in agreements involving reciprocity or corresponding benefits (exchange, mutual loans etc.). Any such possibility has now been abandoned.

– the decision deprives the Bibliothèque nationale de France of an important set of documents which it has long sought to preserve, restore, inventory to make them available for the researchers, as it is the fact for the numerous foreign collections it has gathered since the 17th century, demonstrating its high regard for the heritage of all civilisations across the world and its desire to make this heritage available to everyone.

– under the cover of a loan renewable every five years, the decision is equivalent to a de facto restitution, contradicting the law. It will allow manuscripts to return to France in a manner that is at best episodic, and is sure to strenghten the increasingly sustained claims for the return of cultural property that various countries are making to the archives, museums and libraries in France, Europe, and beyond.

– the decision demonstrates the growing and worrying subordination of the law and heritage policy to politic economic and geostrategic considerations, at the risk of threatening the principle of inalienability in respect of public collections.

For these reasons, the following staff at the BnF wish to publicly express their disapproval of such a decision.

Amongst the first signatures :
Denis Bruckmann, conservateur général, directeur des collections, Thierry Delcourt, conservateur général, directeur du département des Manuscrits, Monique Cohen, conservateur général honoraire, ancienne directrice du département des Manuscrits, Sylvie Aubenas, conservateur général, directrice du département des Estampes, Antoine Coron, conservateur général, directeur de la Réserve des livres rares, Michel Amandry, conservateur général, directeur du département des Monnaies Médailles et Antiques, Laure Beaumont-Maillet, conservateur général honoraire, ancienne directrice du département des Estampes, Gérald Grunberg, conservateur général, chargé des relations internationales, Catherine Gaziello, conservateur général, directrice du département Philosophie Histoire Sciences de l’homme, Jean Yves Sarazin, conservateur en chef, directeur du département des Cartes et plans, Catherine Massip, conservateur général honoraire, ancien directeur du département de la Musique, Thierry Grillet, délégué à la diffusion culturelle, Noëlle Guibert, conservateur général honoraire, ancienne directrice du département des Arts du spectacle, Josué Seckel, conservateur général, directeur du département de la recherche bibliographique, Anne Sophie Delhaye, conservateur en chef, adjointe au directeur du département des Manuscrits, Laurent Héricher, conservateur en chef au département des Manuscrits, Elizabeth Giuliani, conservateur général, adjointe au directeur du département de l’audiovisuel, Hélène Jacobsen, conservatrice générale, directrice du département du Dépôt légal, …

This declaration is available in french and in English on the website jesigne.fr. In case of problem, you can also write to motioncoree@yahoo.fr to add your name.