The “Commission de Topographie des Gaules” research project led by the musée d'Archéologie nationale – Domaine national de Saint-Germain-en-Laye and the labex project “Les passés dans le présent” (ANR-11-LABX-0026-01) was the beginning of a large-scale investigation requiring a thorough and methodical approach.
1 - Identifying the key figures and the scope of activity of the Commission de Topographie des Gaules (CTG)
The investigation began with a bibliographical project to identify members and correspondents, understand the political framework, identify the sites explored and apprehend the fields of study and scientific projects.
2 - Collecting then confronting the primary sources: the role of the archives
The list of people and significant dates obtained through the bibliographical work, as well as approaches to administrative sources, led us to the next step, identifying and analysing the widely dispersed archives, to help us obtain a more reliable impression of the CTG’s working. This phase consolidated, confirmed and significantly added to the information we had about the CTG. This gave us an understanding of the scientific, political, economic and cultural context in which the CTG evolved.
3 - Establishing the documentation produced by CTG members and correspondents
The analysis of archives allowed us to establish objective criteria for discerning the documents produced by the CTG and better identifying its work. We can now recognise, with a good level of probability, the maps, plans, photographs and excavation reports that were the result of its work, and better appreciate the scale and innovative nature of its approach.
4 - Providing access to sources to mobilise the scientific community
We are far from having completely established the full scale of the documents produced by the CTG and its correspondents. It is now necessary to alert scholarly societies and centres for archive conservation in order to access the private collections of individuals and associations. Descriptions and digital versions of selected items from the archives relating to the CTG are therefore accessible online, to raise awareness among any person with an interest in this project (archives.musee-archeologienationale.fr). Here, the second part of the investigation begins.