Mountain land restoration collection

These photographs take us to the mountains and forests, streams and glaciers, landscapes and villages of the past, where we meet the inhabitants and the foresters. Most of the photographs come from the Archives Nationales.

This photographic ensemble comes from the former administration of the ENEF. It was produced in the context of a large-scale policy on the restoration of mountain land (RTM).It is an outstanding collection of several thousand photographs relating to the work undertaken in the mountains to combat the catastrophic floods that occurred between the 1880s and the First World War. Among others, it documents dams, nurseries, planting works, canals, torrents, avalanche paths and landslides.

Photographic campaigns were carried out on these same sites at regular intervals. This historical approach was invested with scientific objectivity, because at the time, photography played the role of witness, or even of proof. It served as a form of "propaganda" intended to legitimise this strategy, which was launched on a large scale (18 departments involved) in all the mountainous areas of France, and which also had a long-term perspective.

The photographs are supplemented by other documents such as drawings, sketches, plans and sections. They are all captioned and documented according to a precise protocol, which gives this exceptional collection a unique scientific and technical value.

Origin of the documents

On the same subject

  • Repaired Dam number 2. The artificial silting is almost complete. The Decauville track is laid on the crest. Parlier 1931
    Natural Risks

    Dams and weirs, indirect protection through civil engineering

    Since the 1860s, government departments have been working to secure natural and human habitats threatened by erosion and mountain torrents. Civil engineering techniques are deployed to stabilise torrent beds and consolidate the banks.


  • Avalanche in the Barral valley; photo by Plagnat; 30 January 1938.
    Natural Risks

    Of avalanches and people: tips for adapting your living environment

    In the high mountains, the snow can last for months and the risk of avalanches is permanent. Despite this, mountain dwellers have always adapted to this environment. Grouped together in communities and leading a self-sufficient life, they have used their ingenuity to take advantage of the constraints and subtleties of the terrain by relying on existing natural protections.