Rouages: "At the interface between conservation and research".

Marie-Angeline Pinail and Caroline Loup work in the Historical Heritage Department. Marie-Angeline Pinail is in charge of the university collections and the Faculty of Medicine collections. The second is scientific manager of the herbarium. This month, as part of the " Rouages "video series, they tell us about their jobs.

On the second floor of the Institut de Botanique, at the end of a long corridor decorated with naturalist photos and old laboratory furniture, we find Caroline Loup and Marie-Angeline Pinail. Together with their colleague Audrey Theron, they make up the Historical Heritage Department, under the direction of Véronique Bourgade. Their mission: to conserve, manage and promote the University of Montpellier's collections.

At the interface between conservation and research

Just a few metres away is the door to theherbarium. One of the most important in France, " it's one of the top three in the world, after Paris and Lyon ", explains Caroline Loup. Built over six floors, it contains between two and three million samples arranged in over five kilometers of shelving. " I have to arrange, inventory and classify these samples to make them accessible to researchers, for whom the herbarium is a scientific tool. They can take samples, analyze them and compare them. I'm really at the interface between conservation and research.

[*listen to our herbarium podcast ]

And indeed, before taking up this position, Caroline Loup had a background in research: " I have a doctorate in botany. I worked in a wood mechanics laboratory in Montpellier before coming to work at the herbarium. She continues to put her training to good use, taking part in symposia, contributing to publications and playing a key role in the national Recolnat network, a scientific interest group run by the French Natural History Museum. " Recolnat is national, but we work in constant contact with collections all over the world. Thanks to this network, we have benefited from funding between 2013 and 2019 to digitize all our samples. "

Art conveyor

As Collections Manager at the University, Marie-Angeline Pinail also interacts with a wide range of professionals. Scientists, of course, but also curators, restorers, transporters and scenographers whom she meets on her travels. " As a steward, I coordinate the administrative, legal and material logistics of collection movements. This may be for loans to outside institutions, or for in situ movements , i.e. transfers prior to construction work or exhibition set-ups.

The work currently underway in the anatomy conservatory has kept Marie-Angeline busy for many months: " Moving the collections out of storage is a big job. We need to keep on hand the pieces most regularly requested by researchers or for loans ". To compensate for the closure of the conservatory, which will not reopen until the start of the 2022 academic year, Marie-Angeline Pinail, with the help of Caroline Loup, also mounted the exhibition " Corps à cœur "which presents an anthology of this anatomy collection.

In addition to these intra muros trips , Marie-Angeline accompanies each work of art on loan to museums. These loans are all the more important as they help finance the restoration of the works. Among her fondest memories, she cites this " convoying, memorable in my career, to the MET New York in 2018 to accompany Alphonse Lamy's bêcheur,the conservatory's mascot." A conservatory she knows all the better, as she is in charge of it in her second capacity: in charge of collections at the Faculty of Medicine.

Learning "on the job

Marie-Angeline Pinail was recruited to the UM in 2015, after a spell at the Musée de la Mode in Marseille. " I have a background in art history and heritage management and conservation, but anatomy I really didn't know anything about. " And yet, with its 13,000 natural, wax, terracotta and fluid specimens, the Montpellier Anatomy Conservatory boasts one of the largest collections in France. " I consider it a privilege to work there, not only because it's such a prestigious place, but also because it exudes an almost sacred character due to the presence of so many human and animal remains.

*[listen to our podcast about the conservatory]

A feeling of privilege also felt by Caroline Loup in the shelves of her paper kingdom: " In the herbarium, I travel every day. I can spend the morning in North Africa and the afternoon in the islands. I can go for a walk in the 18thcentury and come back in 2020." It's a multi-faceted job that requires him to immerse himself in botany, history and geography, and to decipher scripts ranging from Chinese to Latin to Russian. "In the end, it requires a great deal of technical skill, which I learned on the job with curiosity and pleasure. It's a job in which I'm never bored.

Caroline Loup's favorite sample

My favorite sample is a lotus leaf taken from the Jardin des Plantes in Montpellier. The person who collected it injected ink into two of the six canals running through the leaf to try and see if there were any exchanges between the vessels. For me, this sample is an ideal illustration of the link between conservation and research.

Marie-Angeline Pinail's favorite piece

My favorite piece is a papier-mâché lung from the Louis Auzoux collection, which dates back to the 19th century. When I arrived at the UM in 2015 I had to open boxes and in the first one I opened, I found a natural preparation: a human lung. It was the first time I'd ever held real human lungs in my hands, and it made a huge impression on me. When I saw Louis Auzoux's piece, I was so struck by the resemblance that it became my favorite.