Sample communication. From historical finds to chickens run: a collection resurrection

A warehouse, two museums and so much humanity

“In the expansion of the human race on earth, the shepherd has always preceded the farmer” Eugenio Faina.

“Without animal husbandry, it is not possible to plough nor fertilize enough. The oldest field of agriculture, animal husbandry is useful and necessary in every aspect of production on earth, so much so that we can rightly call it the forefather of all others” Olivier de Serres.

Those quotes as comics bubbles with their authors’portrait introduce the visit. They give the register: “here we are to talk about History, reason on Humanity and have fun”. They also deal with the connection between the Agriculture History Laboratory and the Veterinary an Zootechnics Laboratory. Both museums lie in the same modern warehouse with a bay window showing vegetable garden, countryside and chickens running. We are at Casalina Museum complex.

A rational and varied design

The building itself has given the inspiration to the arrangement design: industrial and rural, by using materials such as iron and fir for the display cabinets.
Graphic design balances such rusticity by color abundance and a lot of naturalist engraving enlargements to set cabinets background.
Sections informative texts layout is neat. Its font is highly legible. Its size allows distant reading. Title typeface reminds 18th century posters. There is an original visual identity that expresses scientific rigor, and consistency with architecture and collections.

Showcases combined with informative panels and specific colours
The Zootechnics section

Collection samples mix themselves with the graphic background without hiding its details. At the bottom of every case various objects illustrate the cultural, economical and social consequences coming from breeding (bovins, ovins, goats, doves, galliforms, ducklings). A section is about animals that have been subject of globalisation in the 18th century (horses, rabbits, pigs, silkworms) and another one is about colonial finds. Humor and games are part of the exhibition, like the film about Norman Rockwell painting parodies on Thanksgiving celebration and its turkey, or the puzzle with a butcher poster pattern and its slices as pieces to set together, or the installation titled “Who was the first: chicken or egg?” and its cacophonous clucking.

The Butcher’s puzzle, the installation “From the chicken or the egg, who was the first?” and Marchi’s living room are interactives and playfuls exhibits, set in front of the Agriculture History Laboratory
The veterinary sciences section

The veterinary sciences room is smaller than the zootechnics one with a low ceiling and spotlights to create shadows effects. Scenography reminds the stables visible on University vintage pictures. White painted scratched wood and monochromatic photos printed on metal have replaced iron and 18th century engraving prints. Thematic sections deal with: surgery, reproduction control, digestive systems, osteology. An anatomist desk completes the scenography and a game of the goose tells the Perugian veterinary sciences history. It’s possible to manipulate some samples, like horse teeth or hooves, and a mule intestine glows and gurgles. Blackboards show schemas to copy by chalk drawing.

The Goose game, the Anatomist desk and the Animal reproduction section
Objects and collection samples in help of the storytelling

This museum deals with social, economical, local and global development. Collection finds and objects strengthen storytelling and make it consistent. Samples get enhanced because they become part of an historical context that exceeds Perugia University and sciences history.

Samples from Osteology section looks like a herd
A human and involving dimension

Marco Maovaz, museum curator, has found the humanity hidden under these collections history. His studies on archives, from simple sample tag to correspondence between teachers and ministries, have made him discover an empathic dimension, a moral and political commitment that the professors who set those collections had toward their contemporaries, from Umbrian countryside till East African one and with the animal reign they were keen in.

The storytelling written to enhance these collections has been fed by these ideas. They have inspired all the museum making process, from finds restoration to the arrangement setting, going through iconography research till the making of fictitious cheeses. Without this contribution, skeletons, surgical tools, beheaded animals could have set the perfect horror museum. Instead of it, the result is lightful, funny, generous and involving. It shows passion and respect for these animals that have given so much to us. It makes us wonder what kind of partnership do we want to have with breeding animals and agriculture in a time where finding new sustainable solutions for a respectuous and healthy balance between humankind and living world becomes dramatically urgent

Jean-François Lerasle

Jean-François Lerasle

Designer and Museographer, he has been conceiving and setting museum and exhibition interactive arrangements for more than 20 years. His work also deals with the communication of scientific educative programs like Sharper European researchers’ night or Famelab. He collaborates with universities, science festivals, laboratories and research institutes (ASI, INFN, INAF) that have an international vocation. From genetics to archeology, and from Territory museums to touring exhibitions for schools, going through Palaexpo of Rome, Citta della Scienza of Naples, or Bologne National Research Centre, his creations range all kind of formats, technical and artistic solutions to enlighten minds and put a smile on visitors’ face.