Is it possible to make meaning of the past, to make history come
alive and transform it into an experience which is still "open"?
This was the question that launched the project to create a Museum
of intolerances and exterminations, with the scope of preserving
the memory of the intolerances and genocides of the past. These
crimes do not represent distant relics, but constant dangers:
in fact they persist in all the present factors of violence, ethnic
conflicts, terrorism, violations and denial of human rights which
provoke insecurity and call for a critical reading of the twentieth
We are faced with a tragic total that shows how the practice of
intolerance can become, in some way, "normal" and also
how values such as respect for the other and the acceptance of
diversity are not to be expected but are rather the fruit of a
long cultural process and an acquired education which is never
irreversible. It is a totality which gives the lie likewise to
any illusion about the automatic overcoming of "barbarism"
as the work of modernity and "progress": on the contrary,
the history of the last few centuries is there to reveal how the
tendency towards destruction and extermination unites dramatically
This museum therefore aims at raising consciousness of the "banality
of evil", or of the extreme facility with which we can allow
ourselves to be carried away by waves of intolerance and abuse:
each of us, therefore, could be a candidate for the role of active
This then is the possible significance of a museum of history:
a virtual place where, through documents, testimonies, themed
routes, one can try to revisit a repressed past and create a comparison
across multiple and diverse memories. This is a museum whose intention
is to highlight the cultural roots, the situations and the social
mechanisms that have activated and encouraged racism and related
The dimension of virtuality has a double meaning: it is an "open"
structure that suggests further questions and deeper investigations,
and has a dynamic function, able to solicit new inquiries on the
themes and different scenarios.
The current era seems to have lost its links with the past, while
the most prevalent visual dimension of its culture seems to undermine
the traditional models of transmission of knowledge. The challenge
for this museum is to use technology to facilitate research, to
construct a useful space to see, to read, to understand. It is
an instrument of historical transmission, a pathway for reading
the problems of the past which go back over the themes and importance
of the last century. The scenario, which derives from this, is
not concerned with any country in particular, but assumes transversality
and the international dimension as typical characteristics and
as forms of narration.
The seven pieces of research that constitute the section “Historical
trails” have been chosen to give preference to the "places
of oblivion", issues rarely investigated and at times repressed.
This selection criterion can explain the absence, in this first
phase of a theme like the Shoah, the central "event"
of the twentieth century, and the inclusion of the persecution
of the Rom and homosexuals.
The themes of the research are cut across by suggestions for a
critical reading in the form of five “key words”.
Added to the in-depth analyses presented in the section ‘Historical
trails’ (fact sheets, events, chronologies, documents, bibliographies,
sitographies), this further segment of the museum provides stimuli
for reflection around "innocent" words: normality, security,
identity, civilisation, modernity. These are commonly considered
to be markers of positive values but in too many historical experiences
they have produced disturbing and inauspicious outcomes.
We present here the fundamental premise of the work that brings
us back to the general idea of the whole initiative: to activate
the historical knowledge of the past that is preserved and transmitted
to allow interaction with the present. In this way, the Virtual
Museum of Intolerances and Exterminations aims to provide tools
and proposals for study and reflection.