Making archives talk is a science in itself. Exhibiting them is undoubtedly an art. The exhibition "The origins of the Maison Française d'Oxford (1946-1970)" immerses us in the richness of a documentary collection that tells us about an MFO before the MFO. An MFO which needed extraordinary energy and resolve from those involved in its establishment and creation.
It shows us the path taken from the installation in Beaumont Street to the inauguration of the premises in Norham Road, from the hesitation surrounding the mission and hence the choice of the name of the institution to be created, to the balance found in research and research training.
It shows us an institution serving Franco-British relations and tells us about them, not through abstract analysis but within a material context, by highlighting their actors’ and champions’ every-day lives, by portraying the people who bring the institution alive.
This exhibition will help all our Oxonian, British and French friends to understand better what our institution is. We also hope that this exhibition will be a means for them to take back ownership of a history of the French presence in Oxford that is also their own.
The academic world has undergone profound transformations but the spirit of the pre-1967 MFO remains alive and well. Its founding principles remain powerful drivers of the work of our centre today. In the words of Claude Schaeffer, the style has aged, but the spirit has remained: "The mission of the Maison, and its most pressing mission, is to attract our young scholars to Oxford. As in its first 20 years, the MFO is a place of research training. As in its early years, it is still a place where research and study bring together men and women from both our countries to share their academic and cultural interests. Its mission remains to facilitate research relationships and academic exchange, but also to disseminate French culture and contribute to the exchange of ideas.
Before inviting you to enter this virtual exhibition, we must acknowledge the contribution of the many people without whom it would not have been possible. Our gratitude goes to the MFO’s former members and employees who agreed to answer Anne Page's questions and who gave their consent to exhibiting certain documents. We would like to pay tribute to the work of the MFO's communication and outreach team. Finally, our warmest thanks go to Anne Page who, for several years, has been building up a real archive from the MFO's documents, and has been able to extract the items that we are so happy to be able to present in this exhibition.
Welcome to the MFO and enjoy your visit!
Director of the Maison Française d'Oxford