Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Achemenet / MAVI update


Prof. Pierre Briant

Launch of MAVI, the Virtual Achaemenid Museum

From 1999 onwards a main focus of the newly created chair has been to contribute to the development of an encompassing Internet platform. The project aims to be, on the one hand, a crossroads of communications and exchanges between specialists based at a whole range of different countries, and, on the other hand, a repertory of existing documentation, which can be accessed and handled by newly-developed tools. It is against this background that, in the summer of 2000, www.achemenet.com was created. The site, re-developed in 2005, will soon celebrate its sixth anniversary. Throughout the global academic community it is nowadays considered to be the central locus for Achaemenid Studies. Another branch of the aforementioned project had hitherto not yet been developed, however, as a result of technical difficulties: the gathering and rendering accessible of tens of thousands of Achaemenid objects, originating from the vast expanses between the Indus and the Mediterranean, created during the period of the Great Kings’ supremacy over these regions (550-330 BC), and since then dispersed over a dozens of different museum and institutions all over the world.

The first contacts and reflections on the project between Pierre Briant and José Paumard (Maître de conférences de Génie informatique at Paris-XIII), at the end of 2001, quickly led to the conclusion that a custom-made site would be a necessity, that this site would require functions that were not yet fully developed at that point, and that these functions would be embedded in software that had to be specifically written for the site, which would take the shape of an immense on-line data-base. Once the scientific part of the project had been precisely delineated and approved, José Paumard invested all his research time to developing specific software and building the electronic architecture of the nascent “musée achéménide virtuel et interactif” (MAVI). In order to help us conduct the project in the right direction, we asked Philippe Bertin, a computer consultant, site developer and graphic designer, to join the team. In addition, Pierre Briant was backed by an international steering committee charged with the task of negotiating with the world’s largest museums and institutions, which are also the richest in terms of Achaemenid objects. Among these are the British Museum, the Musée du Louvre, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, but also American, Dutch, German, Swiss and Iranian museums. All these have welcomed our project with great enthusiasm. By consequence, we have been able, in the course of the subsequent years, to collect almost 8,000 objects of which we now possess about ten thousand images in a very high resolution, stored on a server donated to the project. At the same time, thanks to the data provided to us by the cooperating institutions, but also thanks to the work of Marie-Françoise Clergeau, Salima Larabi and part-time aides, every object is accompanied by a file containing a highly detailed description that meets academic standards. Thanks to fine-tuned technical innovations, the Internet user can visit a given collection, but can also create his own personal archive (which he may save and reuse during a subsequent session), submit queries (thanks to the powerful Sinequa® search engine), and has access to an on-line help function (which gives him instructions by means of animations). Simultaneously, the project also aims at a wider public and for this purpose internal navigation has been expedited. In addition, an animated introduction (using Warmseason® software) on the Achaemenid empire, written by P. Briant and created by Ph. Bertin, as well as several modes to visualise the contents of the site have been put in place. Fundamentally, the MAVI program enables its staff to accomplish a task of prime importance for both the present and the future. In fact, the cataloguing, archiving and consulting of data on cultural patrimony have become decisive concerns in current thinking about cultural and scientific affairs. The start of the 21st century marks a moment particularly well-conditioned for creating technical solutions for problems that cannot be solved by the existence of ‘real’ museums alone: preserving cultural patrimony and rendering it accessible. The joint progress achieved in digitalisation, in data-basing, and in Internet data- transferring, render possible what seemed impossible only yesterday. Today it is therefore the solemn responsibility of researchers and academic institutions to set themselves to the task of gathering data, archive it, and provide an access to those immensely rich artistic, archaeological and cultural archives – now still dispersed over hundreds of locations and publications, museums and their reserves, catalogues,
excavation reports, articles and studies – by engendering a vast international cooperation, not only of specialists of the discipline in narrow sense (historians, archaeologists, museum keepers), but also of those from the humanities at large, from social sciences, and from computer sciences. This, in short, is the philosophy of a project that has by now been partially realised, that has been, and will continue to be, a generator of technological innovation, and that embraces the ideal of being applicable to other academic forums as well. Though we are well aware that there remains much to be done, the response in the daily and weekly press, in France and in Europe (September-October 2006), has shown that the choices we have made are considered to be the right solutions. Simultaneously, a considerable number of the world’s museums have now declared their willingness to join our adventure. Briefly, launched in September 2006 after five years of intense preparation, MAVI remains a project for the future, a project in continuous development.


A brochure in .pdf format can be downloaded at

This text is used with the kind permission of Pierre Briant, and was published in Letter of the Collège 2, 2006-7, p. 15-16. To see the origial contect click on the image below:

Achemenet also reports the following updates:

Nous sommes heureux de vous annoncer la mise en ligne de la nouvelle version du site Achemenet, toujours à l'adresse : http://www.achemenet.com/

Les entrées ont été recomposées de manière à rendre le site plus facile à consulter.

***Vous pouvez désormais copier et/ou envoyer un lien (URL) vers chaque page du site, grâce à la nouvelle fonction signet (bookmark), disponible en haut à droite de votre écran.

***Parmi les nouveautés du site, nous vous proposons désormais la rubrique "Découverte de l'empire", comprenant une présentation historique sous forme de séquences animées en Flash.
Venez découvrir dès maintenant les séquences "Flash back", "Le Moyen Orient vers 550" et "Pasargades", à l'adresse suivante :
Cette rubrique est également accessible via http://www.museum-achemenet.college-de-france.fr/ >Découverte/Discovery

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