The first individuals to preserve the French Revolution were the French Revolutionaries themselves. The experience of revolution encouraged many witnesses in the 1790s to hunt down traces of an era that they recognised as both momentous and transient. With the backlash against the Jacobins, these pioneering early collections were scattered abroad and dispersed on the open market. Since nineteenth-century public institutions failed to commemorate the divisive events of the French Revolution, the task of preserving its legacy instead fell to private individuals: militants, tourists, relatives and above all collectors. This article explores the ways in which revolutionary objects over the following decades were transformed into commodities, personal souvenirs, historical documents, and privileged works of art, as they migrated across multiple ‘regimes of value’. It reflects on the necessarily fugitive and homeless nature of the revolutionary heritage, denied any institutional locus for at least a century, and considers the more indirect and subtle ways in which the events of the 1790s remain inscribed within many public and private collections.
Stammers, T. (2019). The Homeless Heritage of the French Revolution, c.1789-1889. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 25(5), 478-490. https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2018.1431688