Commissariat scientifique

Wodwo

Senior Member
UK English
This is a title used in the context of an exhibition on art and film, so nothing with "scientific" will work in English. It refers to one person. Normally, I would translate "commissariat" as "curator(s)" (depending on how many names are mentioned), but in this case, as the person concerned is prestigious and there is also a "conservatrice" who is not quite so grand, I feel I need something more... grand for the first one.

I don't want to use "expert", which sometimes works for "scientifique", since both - and in principle all - curators are experts. And I can't use "academic" or similar, as neither is an academic.
 
  • arundhati

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Well, yes, but not in French.
    So if you want to translate "Commissariat" it will be about the "organization".
    I understand that you want to use their title, so why not "commissioner"?
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Because I don't think this person's role corresponds to what might be called the "commissioner" in English. I don't think they have "commissioned" the exhibition so much as "curated" it. But I'll look into it further.
     

    Garoubet

    Senior Member
    French - France, Quebec
    Le titre n'a théoriquement pas grand chose à voir avec scientific, mais la traduction est bien scientific curator.
    Scientific curators are responsible for the scientific training of collection managers, conservators and preparators, scientific guidance of visitors and students, and for the growth and quality of the associated collection databases.
     

    Locape

    Senior Member
    French
    Pourquoi alors ce titre français que personnellement je ne comprends pas, 'commissariat' et non 'commissaire', surtout si ça n'a rien de scientifique ?
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The role of the person I have to describe does not correspond to what Garoubet describes above. Also, as a general rule, "scientific" in English is not used in this way. It refers to the experimental sciences only.

    In French "scientifique" is used beyond the experimental sciences, in areas where English would use terms like "academic", "scholarly", "expert", "specialist" and so on. In fact European academics are currently on a campaign to extend the meaning of "science" in English to include things like the humanities and all kinds of other fields of knowledge, but I think they are probably on a hiding to nothing.
    I am not sure what "commissaire" refers to in this context, to be perfectly honest, but I have often seen it used in museum contexts where English would use "curator". Or sometimes just "Head of x".

    To clarify, the "commissaire scientifique" in my context is very knowledgable about cinema and apparently had the original idea that was developed into the current exhibition. However, I don't think he "commissioned" the exhibition, in that he is not hierarchically responsible for making it happen, delegating others to do it, finding the funding, whatever. My understanding is that he is an adviser to the exhibition, in an independent capacity, and may have had a hand in selecting the works shown, developing the ideas, etc. Hence the "scientifique", which suggests that he has contributed his expertise, but not done the spade work of getting the show on the road - literally, it's a travelling exhibition.
     

    Garoubet

    Senior Member
    French - France, Quebec
    Pourquoi alors ce titre français
    C'est une fonction, pas un titre. Voici quelques exemples d'utilisation.
    La VILLE assure le commissariat scientifique de l’Exposition et désigne, à cette fin, parmi les équipes scientifiques municipales, le Commissaire de l’Exposition.
    Le commissariat scientifique de l'exposition est assuré par Jean-Luc Martinez, président-directeur du musée du Louvre depuis avril 2013,...


    De ce que je sais, cette fonction a un aspect dit scientifique car c'est utilisé au départ pour des expositions dans des musés, et il faut une certaine connaissance historique, politique, voire physique ou biologique de ce qui va se retrouver dans une exposition. Cela a été ensuite étendu à d'autres types d'expositions.

    The role of the person I have to describe does not correspond to what Garoubet describes above
    Maybe the function of the person is not really what is described in my post #6, but if the person him or herself has decided to use this expression in French, why not translate it in English. Everyone having the habit of attending art events, regardless if it is painting, sculpture or films understands the concept of scientific curator. The person wanted to use this specific expression, why do you want to change it?
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't know why you imagine that "everyone" who speaks English understands the concept of "scientific curator" in the art and cinema context. This is simply not true, for the reasons I have tried to outline above. I personally would have no idea what a "scientific curator" was in the context of film, but if I tried to imagine it I definitely would not come up with "prestigious expert adviser who had the original idea for an exhibition on art and film". I might think it was the person who looked after the nitrate films to make sure they didn't spontaneously combust, or found all the films about space or something.

    If I call this person a "scientific curator" in English I will be doing them absolutely no favours at all. Translation is not simply a matter of transposition from one language to another, as if cultural contexts were the same everywhere and we all really speak the same language and divide things up in the same way, but use different words to refer to them.
     

    Locape

    Senior Member
    French
    The problem, Wodwo, is that it's the same in french for most people. I had no idea what it meant before Garoubet explained it, and the people around me neither. I only heard of 'commissariat de police' or 'haut-commissariat aux réfugiés', but never in your context, especially about films. Maybe 'scientifique' concerning film techniques, material or light photography. So it's not only in english that this title is strange and hard to understand, it's the same in french. Except for people like Garoubet, but he's a real fount of science! 😉
     
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    Garoubet

    Senior Member
    French - France, Quebec
    I don't know why you imagine that "everyone" who speaks English understands the concept of "scientific curator" in the art and cinema context
    I don't imagine anything, I'm just trying to help and understand your point.
    We all agree that the expression, in both French and English, is unknown to more than 99% of people, and I'm pretty sure it's even worst in the film landscape as this title is mostly used in museum. The point is to know who you're talking to.
    If the person thought it would be a good idea in French to give this title, which is understood only by afficionados, which people are you trying to reach by changing it? Does this text not address the same audience in French and in English?
     
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    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The term "scientifique" used of a person is widely understood to mean "having expert knowledge" in the French-speaking world I'm dealing with. It's perhaps an academic use of the term, but it is entirely usual and, as I said above, is being actively promoted by European academics at the moment. It's interesting to know that for French speakers outside that world, "scientifique" is more likely to mean the same as the English "scientific", and comes as quite a relief. I've obviously been moving in the wrong circles for too long!

    So in that world, "commissaire scientifique" is a perfectly viable French term, which will be understood. And also in the French-speaking art world, the person who has that role in my text is a prestigious figure. But that doesn't mean that the title he has been given, and which he is doubtless happy to have, will work in English. The English-speaking world is a different place. I can't assume my audience will have heard of this person, let alone understand a French art world use of "scientifique" when the English word "scientific" means almost the opposite of "expert on art" - much to the frustration of other Europeans perhaps, but that's just how it is. If I'm translating into English I have to do it for English speakers - who may be monolingual, or speak other non-European languages. It's also possible that some of them are so fluent in French they can guess what a "scientific curator" is, but I can't assume that's the case because it's far more likely that they won't have a clue.

    The thing is, I am not trying to "change" the title. I am trying to find an equivalent that works in the same way. That's what translation is about.
     

    Garoubet

    Senior Member
    French - France, Quebec
    I see your point. Do you want to keep the word "curator" and add something to it or are you looking for a complete different term?
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I don't mind. I would like to find a title that might be given to this kind of person in English, for which I probably need input from someone whose knowledge of the English-speaking art world is more extensive than mine.

    I'm thinking of something like "Consultant" actually, or maybe "Expert Adviser", but I'm kind of hoping there's something more specifically arty that I don't know about.
     

    Locape

    Senior Member
    French
    It's also possible that some of them are so fluent in French they can guess what a "scientific curator" is, but I can't assume that's the case because it's far more likely that they won't have a clue.
    Like Garoubet said, about 99% of french people have no idea what a 'commissariat scientifique' means! So if even native francophones don't get it, it won't be the case for english people, even if they're fluent in french!! It's useless repeating that the French have a different and larger meaning of the word 'scientifique', it simply isn't true! Except for the 1% that works in that field. For the others, it reminds them of 'commissariat scientifique à l'énergie atomique' or something like that. So you want your english readers to understand what it means, very well, but the French don't get it either.
     

    arundhati

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Il faut entendre ici le sens originel de "commissaire", qui veut dire simplement "commis", "chargé d'une commission", c'est à dire quelqu'un désigné par une autorité pour effectuer une tâche, une mission.
    J'ai de fait l'impression qu'il n'est guère question de traduction ici, mais de trouver un équivalent dans les pays anglophones... Il faudrai tpeut-être garder cela à l'esprit, il n'y a pas toujours d'équivalent direct.
    Je comprends qu'en général "commissioner" n'est pas utilisé pour ce genre de fonction, mais c'est pourtant le plus proche étymologiquement. Il faut savoir trancher.
     

    Knitricoteuse

    Senior Member
    English
    Allow me to revive this thread. I have just come across the same term in a press release for a new exhibition of paintings and am trying to figure out how to translate it.

    The "commissariat" consists of just one person, a curator (conservateur). I agree that "scientific expert" or anything with the word "scientific" just doesn't cut it in English. We don't think of artsy people as scientific, even if they have expert knowledge of something.

    I was just curious to see what Wodwo went with in the end... if (s)he's still out there...
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I am indeed still out here and it looks like in the end I went with "Exhibition Consultant", which is a bit vague but sounds important. The role of this person was clearly explained in the rest of the document, and this seemed the best fit. The client didn't query it, which they usually do if they're unsure about something.

    But if you've got a commissariat of one person, I would just go with "Curator". Expertise in the field is part of the job description.
     

    Le Gallois bilingue

    Senior Member
    English (U.K.)
    The words knowledgeable and learnèd(sic for pron.) spring to mind as the word “science”(Fr) encompasses the two. This made me think of specialist. So,for consideration, we might look at “specialist advisor” or perhaps “specialist authority”.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "Specialist" works well in academic contexts and "expert" often works elsewhere, but they are only necessary in a job title if the same title could be given to someone who wasn't a specialist.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "Conference and exhibition organiser" is a completely different role from that of "commissariat scientifique" and relates to the business world. The website linked to says:
    'You’d run trade shows, exhibitions and conferences. You’d work closely with people from the organisation to ensure that you understand what they want at the event. You’d make sure everything is organised on time and on budget.'

    In my own case the "commissariat scientifique" had the original idea for an art exhibition and advised the Curator, who was ultimately responsible for way the exhibition turned out, for example by selecting the works to be shown and getting their owners to lend them.
     

    Raffa.English

    Senior Member
    French - France
    Hello
    I believe this example may explain how things stand:

    Commissariat et comité scientifique de l’exposition - Site officiel - Aube Templiers 2012

    First, you have :
    Commissariat général : one name; he is the Curator of the exhibition

    Next he is assisited by two persons, called:
    Commissaires scientifiques; who advise the Curator according to their technical expertise (one has a PhD in History)

    So what about : technical adviser or technical consultant ?
    If 'technical' sounds demeaning in English, what about Special adviser ? (probably sounds American).
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    The word "technical" isn't used the same in English as in French and is not appropriate in this case. A "technical adviser" or consultant would be a person who advised on things like making the video projection work properly or what technology to use on the interactive displays. It's not demeaning, technical and knowledge and skills are very important. But it's not a word that would be applied to a person with a PhD in history, whose knowedge and skills are of a very different order.

    I think in the case above, maybe the History PhD could be a "Historical Consultant" or "Historical Adviser" - something indicating the field. The other could be Head Curator at the Archives Nationales. Maybe the best thing would be to call them both "Assistant Curators". Either that, or make the "Curator" (Commissariat général) into "Exhibition Curator" and the other two "Specialist Curators". Tricky, because you don't want to upset anyone.
     

    Wodwo

    Senior Member
    UK English
    "Project manager" sounds a bit junior to me. "Commissariat général" is the head honcho, in charge of the whole thing, so needs a title that doesn't imply responsibility in any specific area.
     
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