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The ‘Micro-Folie’, a tool for lifelong learning

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© Ville d'Évry-Courcouronnes
13 October 2020

On 19 September 2020, the UNESCO Learning City of Évry-Courcouronnes in France launched the Micro-Folie digital museum and space for educational activities designed with and for the city's inhabitants. This project is supported by the Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with a dozen French national museums, as well as by the SIANA association, which promotes links between art and science. We asked Alexandra LION from the learning city of Évry-Courcouronnes to explain to us what micro-folies are all about.

Written by Alexandra LION, in charge of the “Learning City" mission for the city of Évry-Courcouronnes.

In our learning city, providing access to culture for all, raising awareness of artistic practices among populations who do not normally engage much with art and culture, and relying on the creativity of our inhabitants so that they can be actors in cultural life, are some of the challenges of the micro-folie, which has opened its doors in Évry-Courcouronnes.

The concept of a micro-folie [roughly translatable as a system at the service of a global cultural project] was born under the impetus of Audrey AZOULAY, then French Minister of Culture, now Director-General of UNESCO, and coordinated by the public body managing both the park and the Grande Halle of La Villette in Paris. This digital museum network brings together twelve major cultural institutions, including the Palace of Versailles, the Centre Pompidou, the Louvre, the Picasso National Museum, the Quai Branly Museum, the Philharmonie de Paris, the Grand Palais and the Paris Opera. A micro-folie is designed as a cultural venue which is global, connected, modular and free.

Its spaces allow visitors a wide range of options, such as browsing the digital collections of the major national museums with the help of connected screens and mediation devices, hosting shows of all kinds, encouraging exchanges between artists, local associations, mediators and inhabitants. Thus, a micro-folie is a place of culture as well as a place to live. It is also about encouraging outings outside the neighbourhood, particularly visits to partner institutions. Furthermore, a micro-folie also creates a link between culture and the world of digital and new technologies.

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© Ville d'Évry-Courcouronnes

Each micro-folie is different, adapted to the local context and run by the host local authority. The project that is developed there is shared with the artists in the neighbourhood, as well as with local cultural and socio-cultural actors and the inhabitants themselves. This prompted the Association of shopping centres in Évry-Courcouronnes to participate in the project by providing the town with a commercial unit. The location of the micro-folie in the heart of the shopping centre now gives the project a high profile, benefiting from the considerable flow of people who circulate there, thus making it possible to attract people who would perhaps not normally think of going to a museum.

In concrete terms, the Micro-Folie of Évry-Courcouronnes is made up of four spaces:

  • The digital museum/event area: furnished with a large screen and about fifteen shelves, it brings together several hundred masterpieces from numerous national institutions and beyond. It is a real virtual art gallery presenting a unique cultural offer. Like all micro-folies, the digital museum is an open door to the diversity of humanity's treasures; fine arts, architecture, scientific cultures, live performances ... This virtual gallery encourages curiosity, is aimed at all audiences, and is a tool perfectly suited to artistic and cultural education by allowing visitors to discover, in their own neighbourhood, the treasures of the greatest national institutions and all partner institutions. Digitized in very high definition, the works presented in this eclectic gallery amaze, surprise and challenge. This museum, which is very easy to access, can be a first step, subsequently leading to visiting cultural institutions in the neighbourhood. It is accessible in several languages. The ‘free visitor’ mode allows the digital museum to be open to all. Everyone can follow their own navigation, between the screen and their own tablet, reading the labels designed by the museum curators, discovering the secrets of the paintings, all while playing... There is also a "lecturer" mode which allows you to organize themed and programmed visits for groups. An ideal tool for artistic and cultural education, the digital museum becomes an incredible mediation support for teachers and facilitators.

This space can also be transformed into an event area to host balls, theatre performances, film screenings, concerts and conferences. The micro-folie is a space for creation and exchange. Shows are regularly organized in conjunction with artists, cultural structures and local associations.

  • The FabLab: equipped with 3D printers, digital embroidery machines and vinyl cutting machines, this space is for all those who wish to develop their creativity, regardless of whether they are designers, artists, students or do-it-yourselfers. It is possible to set up numerous training workshops, discovery workshops, plastic arts workshops.
  • The conviviality space: it has armchairs, books, board games. This meeting place is designed to be fun and friendly, with a special emphasis on children and families.
  • The virtual reality area: it has a permanently installed terminal which offers the possibility of discovering numerous films made by the ARTE channel. Associations, students and all persons competent in this field also have the opportunity to present their own films on about fifteen independent VR (virtual reality) helmets.

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© Ville d'Évry-Courcouronnes

But opening a micro-folie also means joining a network to share means, to support artists and local associations through an artistic cooperative. Indeed, the micro-folie cooperative provides content and tools to launch and use all the collections of the digital museum, the content provided by partner institutions (such as the ARTE 360° virtual reality programmes, applications provided by Radio France, web docs ...), mediation tools (the educational kit of the Grand Palais association of national museums, workshop tutorials, in particular), and training (especially by harnessing the digital museum or the FabLab workshops). This content is enriched with options offered by local partners. In Évry-Courcouronnes, for example, partners who are particularly involved are the SIANA Association, which promotes digital cultures, and local higher education institutions, such as the École nationale supérieure d'informatique pour l'industrie et l'entreprise (INSIIE), the Institut Mines-Télécom Business School (IMT-BS), and Télécom SudParis Institut Polytechnique de Paris (TSP), as well as the BKE collective, Planète Sciences or the Canopé network. This network operation also makes it possible to take part in joint events such as the launch of a new digital museum collection or the network's institutional and operational meetings. Finally, it guarantees the enrichment of the cultural landscape by offering a selection of eclectic proposals from the territories, the different partners and the labelled performing arts venues. Adapted to the activity of micro-folies, this network provides managers of local spaces with ideas for their own micro-folie.

Thus, as a true cultural platform of proximity, the micro-folie project is at the service of the actors in the field of non-formal education to make art and music come alive. This is facilitated by creating a new place of convivial life accessible to all by offering communities local access to the treasures of the largest regional, national and international cultural institutions. It is a beautiful tool for lifelong learning, and offers an ambitious programme with and for the inhabitants of Évry-Courcouronnes!