Musée Carnavalet to let go of Roman numerals in some explanatory texts

Published by Cécile D. · Published on 18 March 2021 at 13h40
Musée Carnavalet announced they will no longer use Roman numerals to number some plates. A choice influenced by the growing number of visitors struggling to decipher these series of letters. Roman numerals are not to fully disappear from the museum, they will be simply replaced by some systems enabling universal accessibility.

Changes are slim but meaningful: musée Carnavalet is to remove Roman numerals from explanatory plates. A decision included in the major renovation and modernization plan of the museum. For several years already, the Louvre has been using Arabic numerals in addition to Roman numerals to make information more understandable.

Musée Carnavalet is expected to reopen in 2021 with a new layout. Including simplified plates, more accessible to people. Head of Musée Carnavalet public services Noémie Giard explains to Le Figaro that “we are noticing visitors rarely read texts in rooms, especially if they are too long. They also tend to flit from one thing to the other or pick information through”.

From here on now, texts standing by or below works are easier to understand and shorter. Three plates are available: those presenting the room (1,000 to 1,500 signs), and those for children (500 signs) use Arabic numerals for centuries and Roman for kings. Are added to them the “universal accessibilitylecterns. These boards are placed to the height of a children and read short sentences (300 signs), tactile drawings or Braille writings.

They are especially thought for visitors discouraged by reading. “We are not against Roman numerals, but they can prevent understanding. How many times have we seen parents reading explanations initially thought up for children?”, Giard notices. Sole Spanish versions of the plates include Roman numerals still: “in Spain, not using them is considered a spelling mistake”, she says.

The universal accessibility systems – more often targeting disabled people – now display Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals. It involves 170 texts in about 3,000 found in the museum.

These systems will not include too long numbers such as MMXXI (2021) or MDCLXXIV (1674), hard to understand easily for most visitors. Yet, these numbers will still be written on other plates.

This numeral disappeared mostly displease language purists, Latinists, and historians first. According to teacher and head of the Cnarela (Coordination of Ancient Language Teachers) François Martin, “it’s the story of the chicken and the egg: the less we see them, the less we master them. The saddest part is that children love understanding Roman numerals in primary school because they take them as a game”.

Teacher and Arrête ton char association vice-president Robert Delord argues chidlren can very easily learn to read these numbers: “Children bask in Greek-Roman culture which is playful, mythic, as well as prestigious”.

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