The museum at the Bersntoler Kulturinstitut/ Istituto Culturale Mòcheno is as an ethnographic museum, representing the local cultural context and the local minority language called “bersntolerisch”, which is considered as intangible cultural heritage. “Bersntolerisch”originated in medieval times and was passed on over the centuries until now. Nowadays, the language is spoken by more or less 1000 people and it is considered a “threatened language”.
The role of ICH practitioners is essential, and they are involved in museum activities in many ways. Local youth are actively involved as museum guide. This allows them to improve their knowledge and competences, and to develop their interest in the local culture and language. At the same time, it gives to the guests a real and spontaneous experience. We involve adult and aged people for getting more information about the language. Last but not least, schools and local governments cooperate actively for supporting activities and events. Cultural policies promoted by local and national institutions are one of the main starting points in establishing enduring activities.
Recently, we have started to mention intangible cultural heritage as a central element more often in our project proposal, deserving a special place. In order to get more visibility to the language, the museum carried out special projects for deepening this topic. In particular, we established in the museum a permanent exhibition related to the language, getting the opportunity to understand the relationship between the language and the local community. In this exhibition, different topics are underlined, such as how the language has occurred, the difference between language and dialect, changes in the language over time, the introduction of neologisms, the current law system regulating the use of the minority language, and so on.
The role of the local museum guides is particular important. The group of guides is made up of local youth, who have the interest to carry on the local language and the local culture. For this reason, special efforts are made for their training, and they are educated in linguistic and sociolinguistic subjects. This way, the visitors get much specific information during the visit, not only from a historical point of view, but also in relation to everyday life.
Through these methods, the museum contributes to safeguarding the language in a double way: on the one hand, involving local people, who are proud to deepen the language and, on the other hand, to give the right information to the guests, avoiding simplification.
The projects carried out by the Institute aim to help the younger generations in preserving and actively using the local language, and for bringing the right information about the local language across to visitors. The increase of tourism can also help to create new possibilities for enterprises and improve the local economy. The museum of the Institute was founded in 1998 as an ethnographic museum, presenting mainly historical topics.
Over time, the staff of the Institute noticed that guests were particularly interested not only in the history, but also in the local society. Visitors asked more and more information about the language and about the current everyday life, despite the large amount of wrong information about language minorities. Young people were involved in the museum from the start, but at the beginning they were trained mainly in historical topics, and were not aware of the main topic regarding the condition of the minority groups.
Thanks to the project, we created a small exhibition in the museum, in order to give the basic and right information about the language. At the same time, the Institute provided a special training course, for making the museum guide and local stakeholders aware on the many conceptual problems linked to the minority groups. This point is particularly important because it allows making aware the visitors to what it means belonging to a language minority. As a matter of fact, the exhibition explores different levels how language can be considered. At the first, we value the global and European situation of the minority groups, linked with the worldwide situation. Then, the guest gets explanation on the current law system which regulates the use of the local language. Then, the peculiarity of the language is presented, as is the origin, the grammar, the link with other standard languages, the relationship between the oral and the written language and many interesting and curious examples are given. Last but not least, we offer many examples on the current life of the people, exploring the different strategies for the transmission of the language.
We want to underline the importance of the awareness of young people, who appear more and more enthusiastic and interested in the language. At a later time, many of them are able to take advantage from their experience at the museum for having better job opportunities. At the same, guests seem to appreciate the “living testimony” represented by local young.
Intangible cultural heritage practitioners are strongly involved in this programme. A large part of the community is involved in passing the language on to future generations. As a matter of fact, language is a central element in everyday life and it is strongly rooted in the local culture. The way of speaking expresses different fields of social and cultural practices. As we can observe, language is connected with rituals and traditions, as it is often used for transmitting different elements as traditional recipes, the name of the places, traditional legends, handicrafts and so on. The transmission of this huge body of intangible cultural heritage is supported by the presence of “bersntolerisch” speakers. For this reason is very important to strengthen the local network, which gives the opportunities to share the language.
In this way, the project of the Institute aims firstly at involving local people in order to increase the possibility to pass the local language on to new generations. For this reason, young people work mainly as museum guides, but also in other tasks as well, such as writing papers for the local newspaper, and doing some research on the less-known words. In that way, we noticed that their interest is meaningfully growing and many youth decide not to abandon the language. Many of them see even the maintaining of the language as a possibility of improving their capabilities and as a help for living in a multilingual context. Adults are very important because of their knowledge of the language, and they are often involved in our activities as events, researches and exhibitions. The attitude of the adults is also crucial for passing the language on to next generations. Adults involved in the Institute programmes are very often aware of the importance of the language. The partnership with the primary school is important as well. It cooperates with the Institute for preparing lessons materials and workshops with the children. The local government is also supporting our activities and is promoting the minority language.
Photo: (c) Bersntoler Kulturinstitut/ Istituto Culturale Mòcheno
Claudia Marchesoni has a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of Padua and later on obtained the Specialisation in “Anthropology of Museum and Art” at the University of Milano Bicocca. She developed a special interest for the minority languages linked to museums. Since 2009, she is a Museum Conservator at the Bersntoler Kulturinstitut/ Istituto Culturale Mòcheno. In particular, she’s in charge of the local ethnographic museum, where she’s carrying out projects, exhibitions and activities focused on the development and the valorisation of the local language as Intangible Cultural Heritage. She’s also the author of papers on the language minorities.
27 May 2020 from 13:00 to 13:00
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