From Firenze University Press Book
Giada Cerri, University of Florence
Any moment the earth can shake, but we do not know when or where. As beautiful as fragile, Italy is continuously chasing urgent situations and fixing damages provoked by earthquakes and other natural and human disasters. As the news cyclically reports, the tremors compromise the integrity of artworks and museum objects, emphasizing the vulnerability of both movable and immovable heritage. Even medium-low intensity tremors might represent a colossal risk, and, given the higher frequency of minor earthquakes in specific geographical locations, all institutions should be committed to heritage seismic protection. Fortunately, the general awareness on preventing and protecting the built heritage against the seismic hazard is slowly increasing, and there are significant advancements in theoretical and applied research on earthquakes and their effect on the built heritage.
Howewer, that pertains almost exclusively to the container, not the content (UN 2015). In fact, there are no shared methodologies or standards for museum settings comparable to the anti-seismic norms for buildings. As a result, the seismic safety of collections is a duty transferred directly to single museums, charging the staff of huge responsibilities. Running a museum is a complex and multidisciplinary task. Museum buildings shield treasures and wonders. Here, the collections are stored, preserved, and coherently exhibited. It means managing goods and people, unraveling between laws and prescriptions, scheduling scientific programs and activities, and caring about the public (Bollo 2008, Watson 2007, Macdonald 2006, MacLeod 2005, Ambrose and Paine 1993, Hooper GreenHill 1992).
Rarely, the staff includes personnel with specific knowledge about seismic vulnerability, or with cognizance of available quantitative and qualitative instruments for the seismic assessment of collections. That said, if a museum located in a seismic area wanted to do something against earthquake risk and if it wanted to know the seismic vulnerability of its collections, from where would it start? Whom could it turn to for a consult? Among thousands of pieces, how does it understand the most vulnerable ones? Moreover, among limitless setting configurations, which are the safest from the seismic perspective? Once evaluated the vulnerability of objects and settings, what are the preventive measures against damages? These preliminary questions lead to aspects relating to the exhibit design: can a museum display be both safe and coherent according to updated exhibiting criteria? Can museography integrate with seismic preventions and museum policies? How can safety solutions and exhibit design be combined into existing setups (historical museum rooms, musealized setups) or temporary exhibitions? Considering the ever-changing museum trends, the publics’ multiple necessities, and the museum institutions’ internal dynamics, how do exhibit design, safety, and economic sustainability combine? The book Shaking Heritage attempts to answer these questions. As part of the general research RESIMUS, RESILience MUSeums, developed with some colleagues at the Department of Architecture, University of Florence, this study proposes a novel approach to rank the vulnerability grade of museum collections and setups. It investigates the application of anti-seismic and coherent museographic proposals. The goals are to determine the seismic risk assessment of museum setups and collections and encourage anti-seismic display solutions.
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