Since 2009, the Seine-Saint-Denis County Council has been backing “la Culture et l’Art au Collège (CAC)”. This project is based to a large extent on the presence in class for several weeks (40 hours) of an artist or scientist whose mission is to engage the students in a process of research and creation.


Installation: Biblis Duroux

The class retraces the past lives of anonymous people, and in doing so, examines the relationship between history and little-known or unknown individuals who, historically, have been ignored by research despite the fact that the lives of unknown people can offer an unrivalled opportunity to understand both historical science and our society. Prior to the workshop, the contributor, the teacher and the F93 project manager choose the anonymous person/people to be researched by the class. Among the criteria are: the scope of the subject, the nature of available archives and integration in the local area.

The Remains of a Life
How can we retrace the lives of individuals? What traces do we leave? Using significant examples, the researcher shows the class how a historian creates a whole from initially dispersed elements (accounts, public sources, material elements).

See, Observe, Classify
The researcher presents the unknown person at the centre of the project to the class. At the same time, the students are given a first series of archives: birth certificate, marriage certificate, personal correspondence, etc. The students observe the characteristics and describe the significant indicators (Who? What? When? Where?) A preliminary portrait takes shape. The students then connect the individual to his/her environment, figuring out what groups he/she belonged to, reconstructing his/her sphere, family background, circle of friends, community, values and beliefs. To do this, the group looks in various directions (archives, town hall, neighbourhood), with the assistance of various tools (images, articles, films and internet). More broadly, the class attempts to reconstitute an era, integrating the individual into a specific historical context.  

Back to Life
In parallel to the documentation work, the class identifies and above all meets witnesses who have a connection with the anonymous person (descendents, friends, family). Their accounts, along with photos and objects enable the students to make a detailed reconstruction of the person (his/her values and interests) and his/her relationships as well as his/her material life. They try to get as close as possible to the individual’s life so that they can retrace it as accurately as possible.