Atelier Tolomeo

A place for the experimentation of forms and languages in support of museum activities.
Fabio Fornasari

Distinctive features of the Istituto Francesco Cavazza define its history to this day: developing professionalism and qualifying skills to put in networks in order to develop initiatives for individuals and by offering and increasing opportunities towards independence. This article demonstrates how cultural opportunities, planned and delivered around this vision of skills development, can leave a legacy and create, by strengthening the Institute's tradition, opportunities to respond to future needs. Getting to know people and premises, we have an idea of the life that takes place inside.

Each place consists of specific elements that differentiate the experience within a dimension out of time.
Then there are other elements similar to other places, in continuity and part of the collective history. In this sense, the museum, within the institute's premises, is in an apparent dichotomy between conservation and innovation. The Tolomeo Museum provides a service culturally and scientifically adapted to individualized development, organized to answer the specific questions of those who come in for a learning experience. Work is done on the development of skills to be shared on the web. Since the previous article in this magazine, the Tolomeo Museum has hosted two workshops based on conservation and innovation that have contributed to the growth of experience while also creating new relationships, new shared resources with other entities. Namely, the Istituto per i Beni, Artistici, Culturali e Naturali of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna's Accademia di Belle Arti, the CNR-IRPPS Roma, the Università degli studi di Urbino Carlo, the Settore Marketing urbano e turismo of the City of Bologna, INCREDIBOL Innovazione Creativa di Bologna, ASTER, CNA Bologna and a fair share of the networks working on museum innovation and Italian and foreign technology. These are not merely institutional contacts: these relationships are based on content that has been created and are producing a constructive dialogue made up of projects, ideas and development based on simple to more complex approaches. To allow this, the Institute realized that space was needed: hence the atelier. The name suggests its role: a place of experimentation of forms and languages to support the activities of the Tolomeo Museum. A first event was MuseoMix: an immersive lab allowing the use of different skills on the theme of the exhibition and hence the narrative of collections.

The three-day workshop could be interpreted as an immersion into the contemporaneity made of new and emerging professions, increasingly curious to experiment on special, non-repetitive boundaries. The occasion was to bring together technicians, programmers, cultural mediators, cultural operators with the collection of objects used at the Institute for over a century and a half for communicating and maintaining knowledge. From the geography to the literature, from sciences to humanities. They are objects made of more or less simple parts that contain concepts that have evolved over the centuries and that answer questions that we continue to ask: from Tolomeo and our place in the universe at the basis of the languages of human communication, coded and oral, analogue and digital, tactile and acoustic.

Hall of the Tolomeo Museum, Istituto Cavazza, Via Castiglione, Bologna - photograph by Lorenzo BurlanoThe MuseoMix community, called to work on the collection, has acknowledged these contents and recreated them using all the tools they have individually in their possession: a creative exchange of views designed to build new thoughts, new strategies for building a story. Four prototypes have been produced and compared in different ways with content and processing on similar devices, but certainly very different in the processed content. In particular, the Braille code and the mobility map were the two contents that attracted attention. A first map entitled "Common Grounds" addresses the theme of city sounds for sharing the urban experience. In the city there are clear signage elements that are not just incidents along the way but true signs of time and space. A second map resulted in a series of interviews placed along the streets represented on the map.

These are activated and can be listened when we come across points of interest: it is a city that speaks and remembers through people. In both cases, the mobility map and audio-tactile volume. The cross and the fan have been rephrased and reformulated using digital and curatorial skills to expand the instrument's capacity. Two devices propose the learning of Braille through play and the experimentation of the code's binary and positional nature. The most ludicrous and evocative is probably the Tolocomando, a device controlled by six buttons arranged according to the six-point Braille sequence, combining the activation of the individual keys, providing comments on the museum's layout. MuseoMix has involved more than sixty people for three days and has allowed at least 500 people who did not know the Institute and its mandate to see its premises and learn about its activities. The second occasion is ArtCity, the art fair that for over forty years animates Bologna during the winter.

ReMida Terre d'Acqua is a lab on the theme of the book as a narrative and experiential object: SensiLibri. The lab has proposed an experience without aesthetic within an environment built around the book as a meeting place for blind and visually impaired people from aged 0 to 99. There are no limits. It could be simply experienced as an exhibition, as an interaction with materials and outfits, or experimented through workshops and for the creation of collective works. The culture of the tactile book has a very important history with names like Bruno Munari, Katzumi Komagata.

Hall of the Tolomeo Museum, Istituto Cavazza, Via Castiglione, Bologna - photograph by Lorenzo Burlano

These are experiences that have combined material, book, touch, sound and art together, creating fine art books, usually handmade, that are read through senses. Again, in this case the premise was satisfied by the number and quality of the meetings: beyond the two thousand people in attendance in a week of opening and people exchanging and sharing points of view, their experience with the museum collections. The experience is not over. The atelier exists and is buzzing with activity. Without a venue activities cannot take place. The Children Book Fair 2017 will soon take place with other workshops on languages and narrative geography. But this is another story to tell.


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