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27 June Jun 2017 1119 4 months ago

The Duomo di Milano looks to incorporate the most up-to-date museum communications systems

The experimental phase of the new project for the Grande Museo del Duomo, in collaboration with the Catholic University, kicks off

From 23 June to September 2017 the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart and specifically the 2nd level Master's program in Museology, Museography, and Management of Cultural Heritage, will launch an experimental project for the implementation and development of the didactic-educational equipment used within the Grande Museo del Duomo.

The new model of cultural transmission on which this work is based, focuses on the visitor and not the museum, as it is he or she that is the focal point of the museum's activities. In fact, according to the recent recommendations by MIBACT “The questions that must guide the design of the textual apparatus are “who” to communicate with, “what”, “where”, and “how”: these are questions that derive directly from the concept of 'museum in service to society', specified in the definition of museum as provided by ICOM, and which in turn answers the question “why communicate?[1]

The project, developed in panels and lengthy captions, aims to contextualize the pieces in the museum in relation to the Cathedral, so as to provide visitors with tools that help them to gain an understanding of the connection between what they see on exhibit and the Duomo's history, thus providing an in-depth view which complements the engaging display created by architect Guido Canali, aimed particularly at highlighting the atmosphere and the formal values of the pieces themselves.

Another new feature of this communication instrument involves the visitor's completion of a questionnaire that evaluates the project and is distributed during the visit, the results of which, once the experimental phase has been concluded, will provide the elements on which the definitive texts will be based.

Education becomes a motor for personal growth, therefore the visitor's active involvement, the simplification of language, and both physical and interpretive accessibility are necessary.

The Museo del Duomo di Milano thus becomes a particularly interesting case study due to the conception and experimentation of a new visitor-oriented communication plan.

The first step in this project was the desire to analyse 135 satisfaction cards distributed to a heterogeneous sample of visitors which highlighted the display's potential for development.

Based on the findings of the above-mentioned analyses, the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano, in collaboration with the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, has developed a project for the implementation of this didactic-educational apparatus subdivided into 4 phases of activity, with the objective of restoring a "bridge of memories" that manages to associate, in perfect union, the past of the monument, its life, and its history with a present reality that is constantly in motion and continuously evolving.

Phase 1: Design (October - November 2016) Analysis of assessment forms distributed to museum visitors in order to identify needs, strong points, and weak points.

Phase 2: Drafting of the text (December 2016 – March 2017) collection of information on the basis of the questions regarding the visitors' actual needs and the comprehensibility of the panels. Applying the technical recommendations of MIBACT, the project moved forward with drafting the linguistic and graphic portions of the panels.  The drafting of explanatory texts was overseen by a student of the Master's program in Museology, Museography, and Management of Cultural Heritage from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, adhering to that which was decided during the design of the museum's display by the Director and Custodian of the collections.

Phase 3: Revision (April - May 2017) Verification of the content and prediction of the effectiveness of the new displays.

Phase 4: Experimentation (from 23 June to September 2017) Assessment questionnaire drafted on the basis of the new models of participatory management between the museum and the public:through these questionnaires visitors were given the opportunity to share their own experiences, expressing personal opinions regarding the Grande Museo del Duomo di Milano's communication plan. “Museums have, in fact, changed the focus of their activities: from an internal and self-referential focus - the collections, displays, etc.- they have adopted an external focus – the public, the community, the region's cultural heritage. New languages and new forms of communication in modern museums are an expression of the desire to remain open to society and its needs”[2]. Lastly, over 40 experimental bilingual (Italian/English) educational panels have been displayed around the 26 exhibition rooms. For some of these the association between text and image is innovative: inscriptions were chosen to accompany the text in order to facilitate perception of the proper arrangement of the museum's works on the exterior of the Cathedral. The historical context relating to the various architectural phases which the Duomo underwent from 1386 to the present day will be described briefly in the explanatory texts.

The Museo del Duomo, just a few years since its inauguration, has decided to listen to the public, gathering opinions, impressions, and suggestions, thus choosing to include itself within the logic of participatory management created with the public and for the public. Only in this way, in fact, will preservationist and expository dynamics not exclude communicative ones.

And so the museum becomes a true “contact zone”, open to the interaction between reality and different worlds, with a propensity for investigation and for the study of new forms of communication aimed at "the exploration and 'interiorization' of new socio-cultural paradigms".

[1] By Cristina Da Milano, Erminia Sciacchitano, “Guidelines for communication within museums: interior signage, captions, and panels” in the Quaderni di valorizzazione – Nuova Serie, 1 Mibact, Roma 2015, pg. 42

[2] Boll. Italia Nostra num.454 “New forms of management for networks, systems, and participation” by Alberto Garlandini – President of ICOM Italia