From a tractor to a piece of spaghetti, a locomotive and a coffee machine, there is always something that amazes visitors who enter a company museum or archive. You often find yourself before fragments of an Italy that we are more accustomed to living, rather than seeing in a display case; an Italy that speaks through images of daily life, pieces of each of our personal stories, objects that are “useful companions for real life and essential for symbolic life,” as Cristiana Colli writes in the eloquent text for our most recent project, the “Newmuseum(s). Stories of company archives and museums” documentary film, directed by Francesca Molteni.
Objects which, due to their often commonplace nature, we have stopped thinking about: we take their function, their design and their characteristics for granted. Yet, on closer inspection, they are often objects that have changed or facilitated our lives and habits. Thanks to their aesthetic qualities, they have also managed to combine beauty with high-quality manufacturing.
Venturing into company museums and archives does not resemble the work of archaeologists engaged in recovering lost objects: it is an act of knowledge with regard to the culture of Italian design, innovation and the future. Roots and wings, to borrow an expression from German sociologist Ulrich Beck.
Many company museums and archives are unexpectedly ‘design museums’, considering design as innovation of both product and process, as something that pervades all the areas of our lives and can express the changes of the contemporary world.
Through design, it is possible to reconstruct ideas, desires, thoughts, needs and all the evolution of taste that make up our society. Many Italian entrepreneurs have made it their brand’s distinctive hallmark, thus making Italian companies truly unique.
Italy still has a network of company museums and business archives that is unparalleled in Europe and plays a central role in enhancing our country’s company culture and spreading industrial tourism. In 2017, the agreement between Museimpresa and MIBAC (Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities), ratifying the integration of company museums and archives in the National Museum System, signalled the recognition of company museums as a contemporary museum model.
This typically Italian phenomenon is on the rise and in recent years we have witnessed the establishment of more and more museums focused on the culture of expertise, which can contribute to the well-being of communities and local areas. Indeed, many Italian companies aim to maintain and build a dialogue with the local environment in which they are “rooted”: awareness of our own identity and history allows us to courageously look towards the challenges of the future.
How can you innovate? Create a company museum!
President of Museimpresa – Italian Association of Company Archives and Museums
Former CEO of Snam S.p.A., President of Italgas S.p.A. and President of Snam Rete Gas S.p.A., he was President of Assolombarda, a member of the Confindustria Council and of the Management Committee. He was also part of the Pesenti Commission for reforming the Confindustria system. He is a member of the governing body of La Scala Theatre and has been President of Museimpresa since 2013.