Strategies for connecting religious cultural heritage. The role of technologies in an on field experimental action of Museo Diocesano, Milan

Sara Chiesa, Italy , Davide Spallazzo, Italy

Published paper: Strategies for connecting religious cultural heritage. The role of technologies in an on field experimental action of Museo Diocesano, Milan

Religion has always been central to human experience and great part of the cultural heritage has an original connection with it. Museums still largely ignore religion (Paine, 2000 and 2013) and indeed the “representation” of religious issues in the public discourse of contemporary society seems to be an awkward question: problems in contesting identities, confronting or questioning on diversities, dialoguing among identities and diversities are even amplified when the subjects of discussion are religious issues in museums. In this context, religion seems to be a difficult but promising topic in the attempt of museums and cultural institutions to deal with multiculturalism and intercultural dialogue. Indeed, religious museums can play an important role to find strategies to enforce the narratives on religious issues (Capurro, 2010) in order to improve intercultural dialogue, and technologies could facilitate it.
The aim of this paper is to present the first results of an ongoing experimental action conducted within the frame of the European FP7 research project “MeLa- Museums in an age of migration” ( about the topic of new museum technologies (Allen, Lupo, 2012), in the religious museum “Museo Diocesano” in Milano.
This experimental action, started in the spring of 2013, is based on a collaboration between the Design dept. of Politecnico di Milano and ITIA-Institute for industrial technology and automation of CNR (National Research Council), and it consists in the design of a visitor experience transforming the contemplative fruition in an interactive and contributive visit, possibly enabling intercultural dialogue too, by the use of digital technologies.
The project proposes a prototype path limited to five XVIII century paintings of the collection of Museo Diocesano, selected in the so-called Sala della Confraternita del SS. Sacramento e S. Caterina representing various miracles about the Eucharist. These paintings are very far also from the piety of the contemporary Catholics, so the experimentation has two objectives: on one hand to discuss and verify the intercultural potential of religion and its role as a privileged ‘place’ for the encounters of different religions within the Museo Diocesano, and, on the other hand, to enhance the museum experience for the usual public.
The project is based on the use of mobile technologies to present different interpretations on the cultural assets, making use of multimedia, such as video narrations, of interactive questions and of augmented reality to stimulate engagement and insights, on the potentialities of the multivocal serious interpretations, physical and social interaction.
A first rough prototype has been already realized and tested with a selected panel of experts in order to evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of this approach and the role of technologies in supporting forms of intercultural confrontation and understanding, and to analyse different levels of sustainability of the project.
In this paper we present the project scenario and the prototype, analyse the results of the first tests and discuss the further development and the way this experimental action could eventually inform curation within the museum, providing new information and materials for creating novel parallel narrations and perspectives within the current Museo Diocesano intercultural interpretative strategies.

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