“Erasmus+ for Adult Education”, ref. no. 2021-1-RO01-KA121-ADU-00008680
Implemented by the National History Museum of Romania (MNIR) in the period 1st of September 2021 – 30th of November 2022, financed by the European Union, through the project Erasmus+ with the amount of 57.830,00 Euro.
The Florentine Museum and Institute of Prehistory was founded in 1946 by the palethnologist Paolo Graziosi in order to preserve and enhance the prehistoric collections from various sources existing in Florence. It had, as it has to this day, the purpose of promoting new research in the field of prehistory, of undertaking studies, of the preservation of archaeological materials, and of promoting instructional and educational activities. In addition to being an exhibition facility, the Museum has over time increased its profile as a research institute in the field of prehistory. Today it is included among the Museums of excellence in the Region of Tuscany and boasts collaborations with prestigious museums and academic institutions both national and international.
Housed in the historic building of the Oblate convent, the museum preserves records on the oldest cultural expressions of the genus Homo, human and animal fossil remains, attributable to the entire arch of prehistory, from the Palaeolithic to the Metal Ages. The findings come from excavations and research conducted in Italy, Europe and Africa (see “Collections”).
Initially reserved only for specialists of the prehistoric, the Museum collections became accessible to the public in 1975. In 1998 the Museum underwent renovations which finalized the creation of new exhibition areas, currently redeveloped by means of a system of multimedia stations that make the itinerary easy to use, also in the case of visitors with disabilities.
In addition to the collections on display to the public, the Museum preserves large collections of palaeontological and palethnological materials in its depositories, ordered and classified, and made available to scholars.
The Museum’s collections include materials deriving from research in Italy and abroad, carried out by Paolo Graziosi as well as other scholars. In part these materials (artefacts, artistic objects, documentation of the funeral rite, fauna, etc.) are on display, while the majority are conserved in the Museum’s repositories. They illustrate the history of the genus Homo, which appeared in Africa about 2.5 million years ago, throughout the period of Prehistory, up to the use of writing.
In the exhibit itinerary the collections follow the chronological criterion of the chrono-cultural macrophases: Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Copper Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. Some particular themes are highlighted in detail and particular attention is given to the artistic events, with original pieces and replicas.
Some important lots are part of historical collections related to early research on the Palaeolithic in France, on Neolithic pile dwellings in Switzerland, on certain Terramare cultures of the Bronze Age, and on the prehistory of Africa and Asia. The collections are accessible to scholars of prehistoric archaeology and are also made available for university education.
The Museum possesses an important gallery of plaster casts relating to prehistoric works of art and funerary evidence. The realistic replicas are made available, on request, for temporary exhibitions and for events of social archaeology aimed at the accessibility of cultural heritage.
The “Paolo Graziosi” Archive is an important asset, property of the Museum, which includes a large quantity of documents (correspondence, excavation journals, photographs, negatives, press proofs, study notes, etc.) related to Graziosi’s research in Italy, Europe, Asia and Africa, beginning in 1928. Those related to prehistoric art are of particular interest. The archive is accessible to scholars, by reservation.
During the job stadowing program we participated in two work shops organized for a group of about 12 people with Down syndrome and various psychiatric disorders, who came accompanied by specialized staff to the premises of the Museum and the Florentine Institute of Prehistory ”Paolo Graziosi”. Each work shop comprised two stages, a first theoretical component, when the participants were presented with information and objects of historical value, and a period of time during which they carried out manual work activities, using various office materials.
The first work shop dealt with Neolithic statues and their use as cult objects. Participants learned about how the figurines were made and were given replicas of the artefacts to see the geometry and decoration of the objects. Also during the guided tour, people had the opportunity to touch replicas of tools and materials used to make the statues. For the practical activity the participants were given clay and had 30 minutes to model their own figurines.
The second work shop was dedicated to rock art and how prehistoric people chose to represent themselves and their environment. The activity started by showing photographs of rupestrian paintings and involving group members in identifying and assigning roles to the people depicted. The opinions expressed by the participants were recorded to obtain a storytelling, which was used to present a short play for which puppets were used. The meeting continued with a guided tour of the permanent exhibition which aimed to present everyday objects made of flint, obsidian, bone, horn and ceramics. The theoretical part was followed by a painting workshop, where participants were invited to use prehistoric-like colours to create works similar to the cave images in the exhibition.
During the two workshops we observed a proactive attitude of the employees of the Florentine Institute of Prehistory ”Paolo Graziosi” and a constant care for the participants. I really appreciated the human interaction, the way a dialogue was established with vulnerable people and the communication process as a whole. At the same time we noticed the ability of the staff to manage efficiently the material and time resources, the pedagogical quality of the activities and the concrete results obtained for the benefit of vulnerable people.
Also, the stage at the Museo e Instituto Fiorentino di Preistoria gave us the opportunity to closely observe not only the museum education programmes for children, adults and people with fewer opportunities, but also the relationship between the local authorities and the museum.
The Council of Tuscany provides funding for museums that have an inclusive policy and that offer educational programmes for people with reduced possibilities: people with Down’s syndrome; autism; visually impaired; hearing impaired; seniors or primary and secondary school children. Small museums such as the Museo e Instituto Fiorentino di Preistoria are organised in a network to increase their visibility and to be able to offer coherent programmes that respond to the real needs of people in the community. Museums that have this type of educational activities also receive a score based on the degree of inclusion, activities and projects they carry out, on the basis of which they receive funding from the Council of the Region of Tuscany.
So the regional authority has an important role in organising, funding and running educational activities in museums, but at the same time it gives a lot of freedom to museums to come up with initiatives on educational projects that increase the level of inclusion in the community.
In addition to the museum education activities that were included in the first part of the day, we also had guided tours of museums in Florence such as the Museo e Istituto Florentino di Preistoria ”Paolo Granziosi”, Museo Galileo, Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze, Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze and Museo di Anthropology and Ethnology. All these tours were essential for us, not only because we discussed the technical details (how they organize permanent or temporary exhibitions or guided tours), but also from a cultural point of view, because at each visit there was an exhibition or an exhibit that caught our attention.
We also took advantage of other important attractions of the city and visited: Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, Le Gallerie degli Uffizi, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazzale Michelangelo; the Duomo of Florence; San Miniato al Monte; the Duomo Baptistery; Ponte Vechio and others. We can say that the job shadowing internship at the Museo e Istituto Florentino di Preistoria gave us the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and participate in a series of educational activities in a museum context for beneficiaries with fewer opportunities, but we were able to observe and assimilate a series of methods used in these activities, as well as the spaces and logistics used.
We also had the opportunity to create new connections with specialists from other museums that we can join in new projects in the future, as well as to exchange methods and ideas on educational activities in a museum context in order to increase the level of inclusion and diversification of educational activities.
Participants in the job shadowing stage:
Roaită Flavius Nicolae – musegrapher IA in the „Radu Florescu” National Center for Research and Documentation in Museographical Field
Grumeza Andrei – museographer II in the Public Relations and Cultural Marketing department
Trifu Andrei-Marius – museographer II in the Public Relations and Cultural Marketing department
Semeniuc Ciprian Andrei – volunteer in the Public Relations and Cultural Marketing department