Transcultural Aesthetics

aby: Chelisse Perry, Marist Italy MA Museum Studies, 2013-14

The Eco-Museum, Museo della Lana, and Castello di Poppi, were equally interesting and very different. The Eco-Museum in Casentino was divided into small sections, which in my opinion, was the most interesting. Eco-Museology is on the uprise, and is becoming a very interesting way to communicate local history, culture, and collecting.  In the case of the Eco-Museum in Casentino, divided into the Ski Museum and Lando Landi’s personal collection, tells a lot about the community interests and culture of the area. By juxtaposing two separate parts of the Tuscan town, skiing and wood harvesting/cultivation, one can understand the kind of history that these people came from. What was really interesting was the aviary collection, the taxidermy birds, some of which are now extinct. The ski museum showed an evolution of technological advancements in skiing, originally a form of transportation in high winter, into a competitive Olympic sport. Landi’s collection of forestry tools and cultivation equipment was a treasure, being able to see and understand the uses of the tools, which was a very rich business for Casentino in the Renaissance. The richness of the culture was incredible, and the extent of his collection was impressive. Having the community to be able to understand the culture that they came from is important, and Landi has been able to incorporate the community and teach them about their culture.

The Museo della Lana, equally as important as the forestry equipment, discusses another very important moment in the history and culture of Casentino. The town is still know for its wool work, but what is most interesting is the fact that the Museo della Lana is now housed in the original wool factory where the women of Casentino would work. That in its self is a powerful message that they are communicating. It reminds the community that the building was once a center for immense production, employing hundreds of women, and they address that memory by creating the museum within that space. In a sense, it is what one would call a ‘historic landmark’. The museum is partnered with the Eco-Museum, and does a wonderful job of utilizing the Arno, running directly next to the museum, for hydro-power. The community is involved in the museum, and the history, in order to preserve the culture and teach the community, again, the kind of production that the city partook in.

The third museum, and the only that displayed a cultural contact zone, was the Castello di Poppi. The old tower, after renovation, holds a small museum dedicated to medieval land cultivation. With the inclusion of physical representation of how the land was utilized, down the hill from the Torre, a haystack weighed down with stones, and the grapes that grow around the heavily trimmed maple trees, is a great example of cultural remembrance. It teaches the community how they once lived and how they once utilized the rich land that surrounds the valley. Inside the museum, run by the daughter of those who inherited it, includes her father’s collection of Native American artifacts from the Southwest. This was a perfect example of cultural contact. Her father was an American, but not Native American; however, he still collected their artifacts. Now, they are display for the Casentino public to view. This point of contact is incredible, albeit small, but she emphasizes her father’s collection by removing it from the farm equipment that is typical of Tuscany. I thought this was fantastic because in such a remote Tuscan town, there is a small portion of a great and dying culture. I really enjoyed seeing the Native American artifacts, because it was such an interesting juxtaposition to the Italian culture.

All three of these museums aid in reminding the community of Casentino of the culture from whence they came from. I think it is important for towns such as this one, to involve the community as they have done, in teaching and preserving their culture. Eco-Museums, most of which are being developed by UNESCO, are valuable in preserving the memory of cultures all over the world. It is a dream to see these everywhere, and the people like Lando Landi are continuing in the education of the younger generations about their ancestors.

By far, this was the best trip that I have gone on with a Marist Italy class. I think this is an important site to visit and would recommend for the future classes of the Museum Studies cohort, to visit this site. It is incredibly different from the kind of museums we study and visit, and I think it gives a great insight into cultural remembrance, cultural preservation, and cultural contact. 

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