Disaster: Earthquake Territory!

There are so many churches in Italy. And in Italy churches can be museums…not only because they have amazing works of art, but because they have been turned into museums. The new cathedral in Ravello was built in the 15th c. next to a church that dates back to the 11th c. That 11th-c. church is now a museum with church furnishings that date back to the 11th, 12th, and 13th. cs. But this is earthquake territory. How does the museum address this potential disaster?

 

You can see brass supports on this 13th.-c. eagle, a symbol of St. John the Evangelist that was once part of a pulpit. These supports work to stabilize the object. They allow for some movement, but the sculpture will likely not be thrown to the ground and smashed.

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Mosaic reliefs are also supported this way.

Here is a view of the original church as it appears today…as a museum.

How do museums plan for disaster? Fire? Flood? Earthquake? American museums are faced with all three potential and real disasters. What have you observed?

Museums of obsolete technology

How do we exhibit technologies we no longer depend on? As in…when was the last time you wrote on handmade paper?

Today we visited Il Museo della Carta, the Museum of Paper, in Amalfi. Once upon a time…starting in the 13th c. for Europe…people wrote on paper that was made from old clothes or any textiles that were no longer useful. Paper was invented in China in the 1st c., and came to Europe via the Moslems in North Africa and the Iberian peninsula. The city of Amalfi on the east coast of Italy just south of Naples was one of the strongest maritime powers in the Mediterranean in the 13th c. (the others were Genoa on the northeast coast and Venice on the northwest coast). Amalfi is located directly on the water and at the foot of a mountain range with many natural springs. The springs were used to power mills to make all sorts of things…including paper. The mill we visited today was built in the 13th c. and functioned into the 1960s! The last owner made provisions in his will to turn the mill into a museum.

The photos below show views outside and inside the mill, including the spring that was funneled into the structure to serve different mill wheels, each of which did a different job in the creation of paper.

The basin where the textile pulp is blended with water for scooping onto a screen…to make your sheet of paper.

This is an old press for flatening the newly made paper after it has dried.

At the left of this image is a cupboard that protect workers from the wheel carrying water that moves the “textile smashers.” This was incredibly loud and dangerous! The two vertical posts move up and down in a stone basin, thus smashing the textile into pulp.

These stone basins and sluices are cut from the mountain and either allow the water to move forward or direct it via basins into the mill where it runs the various wheels.

One member of our group is dipping the screen into the slurry of pulped textile and water; she will then lift it up with “raw paper” on it. That is then pressed onto the leather at the far right where it is allowed to dry before it is “finished” with a sizing. In the Middle Ages sizing was made from boiled rabbit bones; today it is made from a vegetable product.

The screen is at right and its frame is at left. You can see the slurry of textile and water in the stone basin.

And how did they bleach the slurry and make it white? In the Middle Ages urine was used…animal and human.

This museum is at a high point in the city of Amalfi…not at the top of the mountain but high enough that the water still comes rushing swiftly through to power the wheels.

What are the “museums of obsolete technologies” of the future? Have you visited a “museum of obsolete technology”? What do you think of this museum?

Ancient Roman Villa

What do you do when you discover an ancient Roman villa under your home? This is a question many Italians face today. If it isn’t a villa, it could be an amphitheatre or rooms from an ancient bath. This happened in 1934 in Minori, Italy, a very small town on the Amalfi Coast of Italy. In the 19th c. it was thought that some spaces below modern buildings belonged to ancient Roman baths — hypocaust systems (how the Romans heated water to make floors and interior spaces warm). Then in 1934 and again in 1954 the town suffered disastrous floods that revealed what this area really was….an impressive personal villa that could hold its own in a contest with Imperial villas. What was Minori to do?

This doesn’t just happen in Italy. Just a few weeks ago in Fredericksburg native American objects were found in the soil near were a new urban city park along the river.

Issues to consider: What if the land is private? What if the objects found are part of your national and personal identity?

Consider the above two issues and create a solution that will both for all parties: owners, a city.state/nation, future generations, your “humanist ideals.”

Above and below are images of the Roman Villa. You can see just how far below the ruins are located below the level of the city…and all of the houses and shops that have grown up over the ancient site.

The apartment building was built on top of the ancient villa…and so much of the villa is still not excavated.