As the history of design is most often said to be basic, sketchy, and deceptive, we might be tempted to suppose that the way museums focus on objects could help us to reach an unexpected consensus. Such a particular display—the collection—requires, however, that a selection among objects has to be made, with no evidence of objectivity towards history. The thirtieth anniversary of the Musée d’Orsay, in December 2016, certainly constitutes a key opportunity to remember how the collection of decorative arts has been discussed since its opening: although historians argued for exhibiting the nineteenth century as a whole, including “its beauty and/or its ugliness” (Rebérioux, 1983), the museum remained quite ambivalent about industrial objects and popular items, even if the process—according to the convenient principle of iconic objects—did avoid a large part of the design concerned by the Musée d’Orsay’s coverage (1848-1914).
- decorative arts
- history of design