For today’s class, we took a visit to Museo Pigorini in the EUR Fermi neighborhood. What I found really interesting was that this neighborhood was actually founded by Mussolini. Museo Pigorini is an ethnographic museum that was founded in 1875. It is unique because the museum officials are in control of their own brand while most museums in Italy are instead under the oversight of municipal or national governance. This is really important because that means that they can make changes to the museum in real time and have a much closer connection to the museum and the museum community. Despite this, the Museo Pigorini has its fair share of challenges. The Museo is located in a neighborhood that is not commonly visited by tourists because it is far from the main tourist attractions in the city center.
I had never been to an ethnographic museum before but I found it really interesting. I enjoyed it because it allowed me to see artifacts from many different cultures in one museum visit. It is important to remember regarding ethnographic museums that the ownership of cultural heritage belongs to other people and the museum is just preserving it. We cannot forget to think about the people behind these objects. I am not going to lie I did feel like a museum outsider in this museum. I felt this way because, as is usually the case when I go to museums, I oftentimes do not fully understand what I am looking at. When this is the case I usually go to the object label or description of the piece and get a better grasp of the item. Unfortunately, this museum only had labels in Italian and I could not seek out this additional information. From the exhibits I saw, I was able to grasp however that pottery, ceramics, and jewelry were important to a lot of these societies. In high school one of my favorite classes was ceramics and it was really fascinating to see different kinds of ceramic works from different time periods and cultures. It felt really rewarding to me because I was able to comprehend and recognize a lot of the techniques and styles used to create the pieces.
At the end of our class time, we went to see two masks that were a part of the original Medici curiosity cabinet. It’s funny I actually entered this part of the museum earlier when we had our free time to walk around and honestly did not even notice them. In order to make these incredibly unique objects stand out more, I think the Museo Pigorini needs to rethink their display. Both masks were placed in cabinets that blended right in with the rest of the artifacts. There was no way you would have known how significant these items were unless you had prior knowledge of them. I think that each mask should be displayed in its own personal display case apart from the rest of the cabinets. I think it should have been in the entryway to the exhibit like the Zemi figure was because it stood out to me and made me want to go inside and explore the exhibit.
In order to attract more visitors, one idea I have for Museo Pigorini is to rent out a few billboards in the metro stations close to the center of Rome to advertise the museum. I know it would be expensive but I think it would be worth it, because hundreds of people enter those metro stations every day, especially tourists, and if they were looking for something to do they could easily get to the museum straightaway since they would already be in the metro station. In addition, I think that the museum should try to incorporate more modern art like they did in the temporary Asian exhibit because it could attract more visitors if they know there is some art that is more their style.
Overall, I am glad we took a visit to the Pigorini museums. My eyes were opened to a totally new type of museum. It was my first ethnographic museum visit but certainly won’t be my last.