Introduction

Keywords:

Modernisation...


Normality...


Civilisation...


Security...


Identity...



Historical trails:

Italian Colonialism
GDR - the communist Germany
Eugenics
Genocide of the Rom
Genocide of the Armenians
Homosexuals under Nazism
Forced displacement of populations



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 century.
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 with modernity.
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 protagonist.
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 intolerances.
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.


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