A journey to discover the small museums in the Modena territory

There are many museums in the province of Modena, the expression of different communities, capable of preserving and transmitting the memory of their territories, of which they maintain experiences and particularities. The campaign of (re)discovery and enhancement of the museums of the Modena territory #MOchebelmuseo was born from a perfect understanding between passion for museums and communication experience. The campaign was promoted by the Gazzetta di Modena starting from December 2019. A new challenge for smaller museums that involved the use of all platforms, print newspaper, website, readers’ community, Instagram, Facebook and all the tools available to the Modena newspaper, articles, videos, photos, to launch an innovative communication campaign and describe it in its various stages.

Small museums as drivers of community cultural growth and local tourism

The #MOchebelmuseo initiative was stimulated by the conviction that strengthening this transmission of memory and identity can have not only a cultural but also a social and political value, especially for many small museums. Through a deeper knowledge and a more and more shared perception, especially young people, who are its heirs, can become passionate witnesses for their communities. Keeping alive the interest for museums and their collections can provide a useful contribution to their role of propulsors of a cultural growth of the community. The increase of a conscious and sustainable proximity tourism is fundamental to better know and appreciate the territory of Emilia Romagna, especially in these difficult times of pandemic.

#MOchebelmuseo involved the museums that are currently the unprofitable branch of the museum system, for which the costs of conservation exceed the revenues. This initiative contributed to highlight, today more than ever, the potential of these museums as outposts of proximity between heritage and community.

The final event at the Civic Museum of Castelfranco, photo Diego Camola
The first five museums involved in the project

The museums of large centres such as Modena, Sassuolo and Carpi have been left out, with the aim of retracing the Modena territory by starting from five not very large museums of different types. They characterise as many localities of which they are an expression, enabling them to attract the interests of different audiences: the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Spilamberto for cooking enthusiasts; the Archaeological Museum in Castelfranco for those interested in the ancient history of the territory, the birth and development of settlements in pre-Roman and Roman times; the Museum of Ceramics in Spezzano Castle for the themes of technological development linked to one of the most important ceramic production districts on a national and international level in Sassuolo and Fiorano; the museums of the Rocca di Sestola, a fortified outpost of the Este Dukedom, documenting the history and craft traditions of the Apennines; the new Cheli Museum in Zocca, which the municipal administration has decided to dedicate to one of its illustrious fellow citizens, the astronaut Maurizio Cheli, to illustrate, through his experiences, the celestial space.

Students protagonists in the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Spilamberto, photo Diego Camola
Experiences in the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Spilamberto and the Archaeological Museum in Castelfranco

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the consequent closure of museums, #MOchebelmuseo had to suspend its activities after mid-February, shortly after finishing its work with the pupils of some classes of the primary schools of Spezzano and Fiorano.

In the two editions held in December 2019 and February 2020, many people were involved, starting with the directors and managers of the two museums that hosted the initiative, the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar in Spilamberto and the Archaeological Museum in Castelfranco. The provincial school director, together with the school directors of the two municipalities, identified the teachers and primary school classes that would participate in the initiative.

The students were the real protagonists: a special guided tour of the museum was organised for them by the director, followed by a lesson held by the author, which brought the museum into the classroom. The guided tour and the lecture stimulated curiosity about the most interesting objects seen in the museum, and creativity for the realization of a comic strip illustrating their experience of visiting the museum.

In order to provide further stimuli to their imagination and creativity, it was decided to suggest to the children that they imagine a special guide for their story through the museum: in the case of Spilamberto, an imaginary animal, with a monstrous appearance, the Magalasso, who traditionally has been wandering around the town in a mysterious manner for centuries. In the case of Castelfranco, the land of origin of the tortellino, the noblest Lady of the Tortellino, who is recalled and personified every year during the traditional festival dedicated to the culinary product.

Some pages of the comic strip created by the students for the Civic Museum of Castelfranco, photo Diego Camola
The web community

The web community was also involved through a group of Instagrammers who were given a special visit to the museum so that they could each relaunch it on their own social profiles.

Various videos were dedicated to the young protagonists, made by a videomaker who documented all their activities, from the visit to the museum to the classroom lesson, to the phases of realisation of the comic strip, all published, together with the final event, on the section of the Gazzetta website dedicated to #MOchebelmuseo.

Instagrammer at the Civic Museum of Castelfranco, photo Diego Camola
The final event

The final event, held in each of the two museums, was the culminating moment of the project, in the presence of the mayor and the museum director. The students, guided by their teachers, were the passionate protagonists of the event, introduced by a very important “ambassador”, the actor Lino Guanciale for the Balsamic Vinegar Museum in Spilamberto and Giovanni Degli Angeli, president of the La San Nicola Association, promoter of the traditional tortellino recipe, for the Castelfranco museum.

The students enthusiastically illustrated to the public the comic strip they had created to tell the story of their visit, which was displayed in the museum. In order to strengthen the museum identity link with the territory and to preserve the rich intangible heritage represented by the traditions that caracterise it, particularly linked to food, the students were involved in a culinary workshop.

In Spilamberto, tortelloni with ricotta and spinach were made dressed with traditional balsamic vinegar, a typical product to which the museum is dedicated. In Castelfranco, the students realized he typical tortellini, in collaboration with the Associazione la San Nicola.

Culinary workshop at the Museum of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Spilamberto, photo Diego Camola
Suspension due to pandemic

The #Mochebelmuseo experience was a great success, as documented in the pages of the Gazzetta and in the videos on its website. The initiative, after having been launched with schools also at the Spezzano ceramics museum, was interrupted due to the pandemic. The final event participated by students, teachers and the community had to be temporarily suspended. It could not be replaced by a virtual experience because of the value that the initiative assumes in a museum that must necessarily be open to welcome to all actors, students, teachers and communities.

Students protagonists at the Civic Museum of Castelfranco, photo Diego Camola

Elena Corradini

Elena Corradini

Ricercatore di Museologia e Restauro all’Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia ora insegna Storia del Restauro degli Edifici Monumentali. È valutatore tecnico-scientifico del MIUR ed è coordinatrice della Rete dei Musei Universitari Italiani (www.retemuseiuniversitari.unimore.it). È stata membro del board e vicepresidente dell'ICOM-UMAC. Dal 1980 al 2006 ha lavorato per il Ministero dei Beni Culturali come Direttore archeologo a Modena, Bologna e come Dirigente a Roma; è giornalista freelance, autrice di quasi 170 pubblicazioni sulla museologia, la storia del collezionismo, la conservazione e la valorizzazione del patrimonio culturale, recentemente sul patrimonio culturale universitario. Ha diretto interventi di restauro ed è stata curatrice di numerose mostre.

Roberta Giani

Roberta Giani

Professional journalist since 1994. For the last two years she has been director of the Gazzetta di Modena. Previously, she worked at the political editorial office of Repubblica and, before that, at Piccolo di Trieste where she began, at the age of 18, as a sports contributor. At the end of the 1990s she was hired by Il Gazzettino. Her strongest professional passion remains politics.