Museo Torino

Cristina Vannini

ICOM Italia


Via San Francesco da Paola 3, Torino

Torino, Italy
ICOM Italia Award for Best Communication and Information Technology project 2011



MuseoTorino is an "on line museum": a new way - and challenge - to conceive and create a museum of the city: both a real and diffuse museum and virtual and "on line one in which the knowledge of the city and its history is stored, displayed and shared.

MuseoTorino has the same, traditional aim of other museums of the city: to interpret and represent the evolution of the city both as urbs and as civitas, either in its material and immaterial dimensions. But, when we reflected about the ways in which this mission was achieved, we chose to undertake another approach. We thought  museums of the city have frequently clashed against the challenges offered by their very subject, the urban heritage, whose representation is not very apt to be interpreted by a museum. In fact, how is it possible to enclose a whole city into a museum, especially if one wishes to narrate its history too? How is it possible to preserve a city as a traditional museum collection if we conceive it as a lively and continually changing reality?

For all these reasons, cities are uncontainable collections and perhaps the best model for a museum of the city is the pattern of the ls"diffuse museum': a museum made up of a system of assets, places, buildings, spaces, sites, landscape elements - natural or man-made - interpreted and communicated as a unique system through instruments which can guarantee their identification, their accessibility and their intelligibility.

The main instrument of such a system is, in the majority of cases, an interpretation centre: an access point (both physical and ideal) to the system and, at the same time, the centre of responsibility of its management and development. By illustrating a land, a heritage, a community, a theme it wishes to offer a key - an interpretation code - necessary to facilitate the understanding and the autonomous exploration of the represented context.

Exploiting all the potentials offered by new technologies, we built our Interpretation centre as an "on line" museum, conceived, on all accounts, as a real museum, with all the related premises, services and activities, freely accessible by everybody, 24/7, wishing to present Torino and its heritage to its inhabitants but also to its guests; looking back to the past, with an eye projected towards the future.

In this feature, the mission of museum changes: now its aim is not the material conservation of its collections (i.e. the city), trusted to different owners of the properties or the respect and application of the law concerning Heritage. Its mission is rather to preserve, increase, interpret, present, make accessible and share the knowledge of the city. MuseoTorino wishes to offer this knowledge first at all "on line", through a virtual navigation of the present city, considering that the city of today contains all the cities of the past in form of presences, ruins, traces, signs, evident or not; and believing as well that in these places one can find also the people who have used to live or work in, their stories and all kind of events happened upon the time.

MuseoTorino offers a journey throughout the city's space and time. A guided or a free visit with synthetic information on the city and its history and images about places, people, events, themes, connected to the related bibliography and archives documentation. One can choose to visit the museum or an exhibition, to read a book in this library or to admire painting or old pictures in those galleries scattered throughout the city.

A museum of the city, like the city itself, is constantly developing and re-shaping. It must grow and evolve at the same rhythm. And, thanks to its virtual dimension, we draw nearer to Le Corbusier's ideal of ls"endless museum'.

For this reasons MuseoTorino is a museum always in progress: we were and we are conscious that the aim to include in MuseoTorino the city as a whole, would be impossible without continuously involving in this process archives, libraries, cultural and research institutes, and above all those citizens who are interested and wish to contribute with ideas, expertise, and energies.

Wishing to create a museum for and of the community, largely based on local participation, the model we were mostly inspired by is, on the one hand, Wikipedia, and on the other hand, the ecomuseum, as an instrument of active citizenship meant to increase awareness in the values of Cultural Heritage, enhancing the involvement in its preservation and promotion, creating the optimal conditions to present it to and make it enjoyable to its guests .

The first idea of MuseoTorino dates back to 2004, but the effective work started in 2009. The Museum opened in March 2011 and in this moment it suffers economic squeeze. But the goal to try a new way to make museums is attained and we are sure that our perspective can help to open a deep and large reflection about identity not only of museums, but also of archives and libraries in the 21rts century. The mission of these institutions must change because they can start merging together, finding new ways to store and share knowledge on Heritage. They must continue to preserve material evidence of the past, but at the same time they must start considering how the web has changed up-to-now and will change in the future the conditions and systems of communication.

The "museum of museums", the Andreacute; Malraux's "imaginary museum", now is infinitely larger and in the near future, if they want, all people can have the possibility, without moving out from their own room - as an ancient "studiolo" or "cabinet of curiosities" - to access the world heritage, as a first step for a personal and direct experience of enjoyment of the great museum of the world.

Heritage, as a material and physical fact, is not endangered by the web. The direct experience of heritage cannot be replaced by a virtual image, at the same manner as a picture has not replaced any masterpiece of the nature or of the mankind. 

But the web is an enormous tool and we can take advantage of it for presenting and communicating heritage. We must learn how to control it in creating few, scientifically certified websites for a broader access to information, in order to satisfy at the same time different communities of interpretation.

They won't be any more museums, or archives, or libraries as we used to know them, perhaps. But they will become something new and we have to  reflect how to carry on a long, honoured tradition of preserving and transmitting knowledge, looking to the future and not only to the past and to the present.


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