Why the PAM ?

Puppets, shadow theater, object theater, paper theater… Almost universal, numerous and multicultural, exigeants et creative, deeply connected with existential wonderings of human being, nowadays, arts of puppetry are still alive and keep inventing. The Portail des Arts de la Marionnette (Arts of Puppetry Portal) presents their history and their teeming current events.

The « Portail des Arts de la Marionnette » project

Poster of Jacques Chesnais
Poster of Jacques Chesnais, 1942 © Jacques Chesnais / musée des marionnettes du monde – Gadagne musées.

Following the surge of enthusiasm aroused by the « Saisons de la Marionnette 2007-2010 », eight French institutions related to the arts of puppetry responded to an appeal made by the ministère de la Culture et de la Communication in 2008 concerning a project which came within the National Digitization Program for Heritage and Creation.

So, at the beginning of 2009, the first work on the « Portail des Arts de la Marionnette » (Arts of Puppetry Portal) began.

The Institut International de la Marionnette was nominated as project coordinator. Today the «PAM» has 21 partners organized into regional networks, with collections reflecting the practices and arts of puppetry, object theatre, shadow theatre, paper theatre and associated arts, representing heritage alongside contemporary creation.

This was a wonderful opportunity, and the need was felt to have an internet showcase which would present to the public at large the richness and diversity of the arts of puppetry: a «portal» with free access, a unique virtual space opening onto multiple reality and multiple locations. On the «PAM» we can find collections from museums and from archives and libraries as well as theatre and festival programs, shows from companies at different stages of their production, publications by associations etc.

The choice of documents, objects, administration of authors’rights, filing, inventories, cleaning up and “polishing”, taking photos of objects and digitizing documents, writing notes were all part of this vast project which called on the energy and skills of all concerned. Nothing would have been possible without the investment, the energy and the motivation of all the partners, and their desire to familiarize the public with the arts and practices of puppetry, an art form which has hitherto been little known.

The requirement of the Ministry was essentially quantitative, ie: to make available to the public tens of thousands of documents. However, the partners of the portal added a stipulation concerning quality: for the discovery of the arts of puppetry a strong educational element and a rich editorial content were necessary, necessitating long scientific and professional work. Over time, a glossary, themed files, biographical information and notes about shows will enable all these documents to be put into context.

La Petite Odyssée
La Petie Odyssée, directed by Grégoire Callies. © Théâtre Jeune Public, Strasbourg.

Inside the profession, the first fruits of the work around the PAM and its database can already be felt. Work on inventory and collection has begun on an enormous scale: inventories of collections, shows, people and terminology used by different professions concerned with puppetry. The PAM is also the opportunity to take up an intellectual and human challenge, as it brings together very different perceptions of the arts of puppetry. For some, the heart of the arts of puppetry lies principally in the object to be restored, preserved, exhibited, while for others, the object-puppet is only the means to a particular practice in the art of the actor, for others again, the puppet is considered as a social and cultural phenomenon rather than an artistic one, and requires an ethnological and anthropological approach.

For all these, we must establish bridges and echoes between our arts, practices, places and audiences. We must awaken curiosity.

Because the history and contemporary reality of the arts of puppetry only have meaning when examined in an international context, tomorrow, the PAM will open up to new French and European partners, on an interface which will become progressively bilingual (French / English).