LE LOUVRE: Palace and Paintings
Joseph E. Romero
PARIS - For the rapidly evolving
interactive publishing industry, France has taken a significant lead in
the development of culture titles. Le Louvre: Palace and Paintings
(available in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and
Korean) has already sold over 100,000 copies in France and more than
50,000 in foreign markets since its release in December 1994.
As a CD-ROM
format, Le Louvre echos the American electronic book familiar
from early Voyager Company titles, but surpasses anything developed by
Microsoft and its spreadsheet approach to museum collections.
At first glance, one is
immediately struck by the cerebral, French modernist, up-market look of
the screens and the central pivot point of the CD-ROM's rich data base: an
interactive time-line. This means that unlike most interactive books,
there is no need to return to the "Chapters" (menu) screen to
access major elements of the title. Essentially,
this CD-ROM provides an interactive visit of the Louvre, both as museum
and as palace. From the medieval Louvre of 1190 to the Pyramid of the
American architect I.M. Pei,
the contents are sub-divided into eight periods. The program includes 100
paintings from the principal European
schools, 35 animations devoted to compositional analysis, over 2 1/2
hours of interactive commentary, some 100 biography
files and numerous anecdotes related to the architecture and history
of the palace and its painting collections. The title can also be accessed
via the three major museum wings: Richelieu, Sully and
Denon. Navigation is easy,
hyperlinks are plentiful, and the magnifying glass mode for chosen
paintings is a plus.
Analysis of paintings tends to
be clinical, almost surgical - just the facts. Rarely is it based on a
visual experience and clearly lacks a true presentation of the creative
process. Although there are only 20 minutes of music and no interface to
its credits during the program, the sound illustrations are apt and
provide a contextual relationship with the artistic currents under
music must accompany the content which is, above all, about the
masterpieces in the Louvre and the history of the palace", says
Stéphane Grand-Chauvin, a manager at Montparnasse Multimedia,
co-producer of this title. Clearly, there was to be only one star on this
CD-ROM: Le Louvre.
Original French texts were written by
Dominique Brisson and Natalie Coural. Le Louvre: Palace and Paintings
is the kind of product that one would expect from the Réunion
des Musées Nationaux (French National Museums): aesthetically
cool, academic, technically competitive, and culturally conservative.
French craftsmanship and atmosphere, nonetheless, give a strong identity
to the product and there are some elegant touches to this title. It would
be interesting to see if this ambitious French publisher could liberate
itself from the constraints of the electronic coffee-table book and its
gilt-edged valeurs sures towards a more environmental conceptual
design. Perhaps future interactive titles will yield progress along these
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