The project entitled “RRM – Restauratori e Restauri in Museo” (Restorers and Restorations in Museums) sets out to focus attention on aspects of an artwork that are usually not accessible to museum visitors – the artwork’s conservation history and the main players in the restorations that have been carried out over the years. The conservation of cultural assets is one of the primary responsibilities to which museums devote financial, human and technological resources, and which visitors are not always aware of, just as they often fail to appreciate the constant need for monitoring and maintenance of the cultural heritage on display.
This observation comes from experience gained in 2010-2011 on the occasion of the first edition of RRM enabling visitors to enjoy works of art held in several Milanese museums, stimulating and involving people to find out more about the history of Italian restoration. The lively participation and positive reaction of the general public on that occasion led to two considerations: on the one hand, there is great interest amongst visitors from Italy and abroad regarding a new approach to works of art and the consequent need to meet this interest through specific studies; on the other hand, the need to conduct surveys and research on conservation works to fully explain the nature of the restoration projects involved.
On the strength of the pilot edition, the new RRM project now aims to involve visitors in a different and more challenging way, since they can find out more about what happened, in the past and more recently, to many of the masterpieces held by Milan’s foremost museums. It is interesting to note that nearly all of Italy’s historical and artistic heritage has changed some of its original features – substantially or in small ways – as a result of restoration, and that many visitors do not realise this fact, sometimes expressing opinions on pictures that seem to be “freshly painted”.
This type of information is not generally available, which is also true of the great Italian tradition of art history not only techniques and materials but also the history of restoration – all these factors encouraged the Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo and the five museums involved in the RRM project to find new ways of narrating the history of selected works based on their particular and peculiar conservation history.
The following museums and institutions have chosen to join the RRM project: the Brera Art Gallery, the Sforzesco Castle Civic Museums, the Museum of the Twentieth Century, the Poldi Pezzoli Museum and the Diocesan Museum – institutions that differ in their constitution, history and types of collections but united by the same desire to spread information on conservation issues of the artistic heritage in an interesting manner.
What has been created is a visitors’ itinerary based on restoration as a common thread, and participants are accompanied with multimedia support across the whole spectrum of museums and institutions involved, with their specific areas of specialisation.
The project, promoted by the Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo, and co-financed by Regione Lombardia and Fondazione Cariplo follows on from the national project ASRI-Archivio Storico Nazionale e Banca dati dei Restauratori Italiani (National Archive and Databank of Italian Restorers).