Mon cœur va aux gens de France: Fire in the Notre-Dame Cathedral

Added: April 18, 2019

On April 15, 2019, I saw a Tweet from ABC News that shared a video link to the live coverage of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral that occurred as renovations were worked on. In addition to the many people in France and around the world, I was affected by the news in a number of ways. From a personal perspective, I have always wanted to someday travel to Paris to visit the most known buildings including the Notre Dame Cathedral. As a child, I watched Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame which was my first exposure to Notre Dame, the novel,  and media interpretation of French history.

When I was in middle school, I started to take French classes. In eighth grade, I had the opportunity to join my classmates for a trip to Quebec and Quebec City. My classmates and I went to meet our French Canadian pen pals we were writing to during our classes. We stayed at the Chateau de Frontenac and in addition to meeting our pen pals in person we explored the city and province learning about its history. After this experience, I continued to learn French in high school and took a France and French Culture class in college. I hoped that one day I would be able to have a similar experience when I go to Paris. During the live coverage, the memories from school and the Quebec trip flashed through my mind. At the time, I had the scary thought of what would happen if the fire was not put out in time. I am happy that the fire was put out, and I hope that Notre Dame will continue to awe and inspire many Parisians, French persons, and people around the world.

As a public historian and a museum professional, I understand the significance of what was lost in the fire and the challenges that arise during and after a fire. The cathedral is a 13th century building that was restored a number of times over the centuries, and once we lose a part of history no matter the effort we put in to recreate it we would not be able to get it back. We should not take for granted the history that is left behind, and our work as historians preserving historic places and collections is significant in keeping history around for future generations to understand our past. When I watched the live coverage, I posted on Twitter expressing my sadness for what was lost:

This is heartbreaking! I hope everyone is safe from the fire. I can imagine how much time, money, and dedication it will take to restore this cathedral after this sad event. #publichistory #MuseumEdChat #History #NotreDame

I kept myself up to date on the news of Notre Dame and the efforts that are made to protect its history. I read articles and posts from a number of outlets such as the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and National Public Radio. One of the posts from the Art Newspaper, for example, revealed that there were a number of items from Notre Dame’s collections were retrieved from the cathedral. In the article, Anny Shaw wrote that some of the most valued objects including Holy Crown of Thorns, believed to have been placed on Jesus’s head during his crucifixion, and the 13th-century tunic of Saint Louis were stored at the Hotel de Ville overnight then transferred to the Louvre for safe keeping. These articles and the reactions from people on the internet about this tragedy reveal what connects us all together.

The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral reminds all of us that we have a connection to old places and we should come together to help preserve them. In an article from National Trust for Historic Preservation called “Why the Cathedral of Notre Dame Matters”, Thompson Mayes recounted his own reaction to the fire and reminded readers that the Notre Dame serves as a French national identity as well as a witness to numerous events in history for centuries. Mayes also pointed out that

We feel this loss because we recognize these places do something few other things can. They remind us that we are all part of humanity and the world. They expand our notion of ourselves beyond our treasured individual memories and national identity to give us an expansive sense of shared humanity around the globe. Notre Dame reminds us that we are collectively part of a continuum across the generations, past, present, and future, and across the world.

I have seen a number of examples of museums share their empathy for the French people. For instance, I saw a statement from the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Connecticut post on their Facebook page written in both English and French to reach out to the French people to express their empathy especially since they are going through their own path of disaster recovery and the importance of historic places. I have listed relevant links about Notre Dame in the resources section I have been reading to keep myself informed. I hope that someday we will look back at this moment and see it as a part of its long history it has survived. In the meantime, I will watch for news coverage and articles on the restoration and preservation efforts of Notre Dame.

What was your reaction to the fire at Notre Dame?

Resources:

Chateau de Frontenac: https://www.fairmont.com/frontenac-quebec/?cmpid=msn_lcf_search-frontenac_quebec-brand-us-revsh&utm_source=msn&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=lcf&utm_campaign=search-frontenac_quebec-brand-us-e-revsh

https://savingplaces.org/stories/why-the-cathedral-of-notre-dame-matters?

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/news/louvre-plans-to-take-precious-works-rescued-from-notre-dame

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/2019/04/many-historic-icons-face-same-threats-notre-dame-cathedral/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/04/15/fire-was-scourge-medieval-cathedrals-they-rebuilt-ashes/?utm_term=.ba3e367999b8

https://www.wired.com/story/the-notre-dame-fire-and-the-future-of-history/?mbid=social_twitter_onsiteshare

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150622-andrew-tallon-notre-dame-cathedral-laser-scan-art-history-medieval-gothic/

https://dailyhive.com/montreal/notre-dame-basilica-cathedral-fire-paris-montreal-bells-ring

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chloedemrovsky/2019/04/15/notre-dame-in-flames-protecting-our-cultural-treasures/#3208d1235f10

https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2019/04/15/paris-notre-dame-cathedral-flames/xxj3cTUPh1XtTMfTte2VNL/story.html?fbclid=IwAR01befd9thoh__2ABZHK7jmICRvdA9nVeBa-7MpznwAJCBMt3CLecxDvxY

https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/notre-dame-fire/h_de6c51d2088b7bdefceb008a51b20c2c?utm_medium=social&utm_source=fbCNN&utm_content=2019-04-15T18:31:47&fbclid=IwAR2uOXYzLbzkL4fPTpXou29tZnpjgt-zrg0j_StS7-CLc43Rq1BJ1G1_Osc

https://abcnews.go.com/International/fire-breaks-paris-notre-dame-cathedral/story?id=62411000&cid=clicksource_4380645_null_twopack_hedhttps://www.npr.org/2019/04/15/713525879/paris-notre-dame-cathedral-in-flames

Museums I Would Like To Visit

Added to Medium, December 13, 2018

I have been asked a number of times throughout my life so far what museums I have been to and which ones I would like to visit. I decided to answer their question with a list of museums I would like to visit with a brief description of the museum, mission, and why I would like to visit this museum. This list is in no particular order, and it could be museums in and outside of the United States. I am only limiting myself to eight museums even though my list of museums is much longer because the blog post would be too long. Here are some of the museums I would like to visit in the future:

1. Museum of the American Revolution, Philadelphia, PA: It explores the dramatic, surprising story of the American Revolution through its collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, documents, and works of art. I want to visit the Museum of the American Revolution not only because one of the histories I am most passionate about is Early American history but the last time I visited Philadelphia I was a kid and would have loved to visit a museum like this one in addition to visiting the Liberty Bell. https://www.amrevmuseum.org/

2. Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, CA: The Museum is about the life story of Walt Disney, the man who raised animation to an art, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a distinctly American legacy that transformed the entertainment world. It features contemporary, interactive galleries with state-of-the-art exhibits narrated in Walt’s own voice alongside early drawings, cartoons, films, music, a spectacular model of Disneyland, and a lot more. Since I am one of many who have grown up watching Disney films, both animated and live action, and have had a fascination for the history of the Disney family after watching a couple of Walt Disney movies and documentaries, I would like to visit the museum in person. https://www.waltdisney.org/

3. Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA: It a public learning laboratory exploring the world through science, art, and human perception. Their mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide. A few of my colleagues at the Long Island Explorium talked about how impressive their exhibits and interactive experiences are, and would like to see this for myself. https://www.exploratorium.edu/

4. Barnum Museum, Bridgeport, CT: The Museum is a leading authority on P.T. Barnum’s life and work, and it contains more than 60,000 artifacts relating to Barnum, Bridgeport, and 19th century America. I went to the circus once as a child, and I thought that the history of the circus was interesting. Also, when I was an intern at Connecticut’s Old State House I learned that P.T. Barnum once served the state inside the Old State House. After talking with a museum colleague who I met online who works at the Barnum Museum and learning about the restoration plan of the Museum from the Director, Kathleen Maher’s, presentation at the NEMA conference, I would like to visit the museum and learn more about P.T. Barnum and his influence on American culture. https://barnum-museum.org/

5. National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.: This museum is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts, and advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change. It is a fascinating museum and I have not been to many museums that focus solely on women and the accomplishments made by women. As a woman myself, I think it is especially important to learn more about what these women have accomplished and how their accomplishments impacted the nation. https://nmwa.org/

6. The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam, Netherlands: In cooperation with Anne Frank’s father, Otto Frank, the museum was established inside the house where Anne Frank went into hiding and its’ mission is to increase awareness of Anne’s life story all over the world. Since I learned about Anne Frank and her life while I was in school, I wanted to visit in person to not only learn more about the lives of those who hid in the house but I also think it is important to put into perspective what it would be like to be hidden in a small space by stepping into that space. https://www.annefrank.org/en/museum/

7. The Louvre, Paris, France: Since 1793, the Louvre was intended to be a universal museum in terms of the wealth of the collections (which there are thousands of art and artifacts) and its diversity of its visitors. While it is the most visited museum in the world, I have always wanted to travel to France since I started to learn French when I was in middle school and see the vast history and art that the Louvre has collected in its long history as a museum. https://www.louvre.fr/en/

8. Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence, Italy: This is the largest Franciscan church in the world, and the construction of the current church that replaced an older one began in May 1294. I have relatives who live in northern Italy and in addition to visiting them I would like to see the Basilica for its architectural significance as well as its art and monuments including Michelangelo’s and Galileo’s tombs. http://www.santacroceopera.it/en/default.aspx

What are some of the museums you are interested in visiting?