Tunisia - The Bardo National Museum gets a makeover
Cultural Dialogue and Heritage - The Bardo National Museum gets a makeover
In Tunisia, with support from the Louvre Museum, Africa’s second-leading museum launched an extensive project that involved conserving and restoring its collections of sculptures, updating its displays and exhibition spaces and setting up training in museum careers. The project culminates with the summer 2021 opening of the exhibition room devoted to Roman sculptures from Bulla Regia. Since 2015, TotalEnergies has been supporting this unique initiative highlighting Tunisia’s cultural heritage.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015. The Bardo National Museum in Tunis has been attracting more attention than usual. In the heart of Tunisia’s largest museum, the majestic Carthage Room is unveiling a new collection of 35 ancient statuettes and portrait sculptures, all exhibited in specially designed display cases. This new presentation was unanimously hailed for its high quality and understated appeal. Summer 2021. A new exhibition room is opening, this time to showcase the prestigious collection of Bulla Regia Roman sculptures.* To prepare for these two key events, the Bardo National Museum performed extensive restoration and renovation work with assistance from the Louvre Museum and financial support from several sponsors.
A field school devoted to sculpture
It all began with the signing of a partnership between the Institut National du Patrimoine de Tunisie (Tunisian national heritage institute) and the Louvre Museum, which included the creation of a field school coordinated by the Louvre that would train young Tunisians in sculpture conservation and exhibition. “This initiative is part of our larger project consisting of renovating the museum and conserving and restoring a large part of its Roman sculpture collection,” explained Fatma Naït Yghil, director of the Bardo National Museum.
With eight graduates of the Institut Supérieur des Beaux-Arts de Tunis (fine-arts institute of Tunis) as its students, the field school’s first undertaking was to reinstall large Roman statuary works between the colonnades of the Carthage Room’s patio, followed by the restoration of the 35 statuettes and portrait sculptures chosen for exhibition in the room’s new display cases.
Invaluable logistics support
TotalEnergies Tunisia and the Tunisian bank UBCI have been supporting this exhibition preparation project since 2015. In July 2016, the initiative’s success inspired the Louvre and the Bardo to form a closer partnership. Several sponsors, including TotalEnergies, supported this new collaboration. Their financial support made it possible to expand the Louvre-Bardo field school’s work to a restoration of the collection of sculptures from the Bulla Regia archeological site with a view to exhibiting them in the new room devoted to it on the museum’s ground floor. It also covered a restoration of the collection of emperor portrait sculptures.*
“These sponsors were essential to our successful completion of this large project,” said Naït Yghil. “They allowed us to get around the slow, complex administrative government procedures, especially for the immediate purchase of products specific to conservation and restoration work. TotalEnergies was especially helpful when it came to importing products and materials that aren’t available in Tunisia, in spite of recent difficulties connected to the Covid-19 pandemic, given the nearly global lockdown and the closing of borders.”
Thanks to this sponsorship, we were also able to set up a temporary workshop in the Bulla Regia collection’s future exhibition room. This support furthermore enabled purchases from Tunisian suppliers of the rubber and wood necessary to construct display cases for the sculptures and to protect the mosaics and floors. The sculptures were moved using lifting equipment provided by TotalEnergies.
The sponsors also helped cover the travel expenses of experts from the Louvre Museum, the purchase of safety equipment for the field school and a part of its office equipment. The resources made available covered the fees for training one young Tunisian fine arts graduate in art installation and display and to provide him with a fully equipped workshop.
"This fruitful collaboration will give rise to other conservation-restoration projects and new possibilities"
Fatma Naït Yghil, director of the Bardo national museum
The new Bulla Regia exhibition room: paving the way for future initiatives
The new room devoted to the Bulla Regia collection pays due homage to the museum’s magnificent collection of Roman sculptures, which includes a wide variety of statues of gods and empresses, key works in the study of ancient sculpture. “Its opening in July 2021 helped increase awareness of Tunisia’s exceptional heritage in the area of sculpture,” explained Danièle Braunstein, project director at the Louvre Museum, restoration expert and manager of the partnership with the Bardo. With the support of our sponsors, we hope to have enabled a lasting transmission of expertise and the creation of new museum careers in this country.”
The refurbishments carried out at the museum will also increase its attractiveness and confirm its legitimacy as the secondleading museum in Africa. “This fruitful collaboration will give rise to other conservation-restoration projects and new possibilities for future partnerships in the areas of mosaics, museum design and exhibition design, for other rooms at the Bardo National Museum,” commented Naït Yghil.
The Bardo, an iconic museum
The Bardo National Museum is a prestigious Tunisian cultural heritage site set up at the end of the 19th century in Ali Bey Palace. It houses countless rare works discovered in the country’s archeological sites, including the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics and an extensive collection of ancient sculptures. Its key works include:
• The Altar of the Gens Augusta, a sacrificial altar from the Roman Era associated with the imperial cult, discovered at the Carthage archeological site in Tunisia
• A major collection of Roman Era statuary works and mosaics discovered at the large Tunisian archeological site Bulla Regia
• A collection of ancient portrait sculptures of Roman emperors
- 2015 - the year TotalEnergies started supporting the Bardo National Museum.
- 35 - ancient statuettes and portrait sculptures were reinstalled in the museum’s Carthage room.
- 10 - students enrolled in the Louvre-Bardo field school.