From the earth to the table

This is a participatort project with the involvement of the local community - primarily the local schools and farmers - aiming at the transmission of knowledge about agriculture, biodiversity and traditional food, also through concrete practices experiment

Museum: Museo Etnografico della provincia di Belluno e del Parco Nazionale Dolomiti Bellunesi
Years: It started in 1999 and continues today

Museo Etnografico della provincia di Belluno e del Parco Nazionale Dolomiti Bellunesi

The Ethnographic Museum of the Province of Belluno and the Belluno Dolomites National Park is housed in a nineteenth-century villa, located in a landscape of great interest at the foot of the Dolomites, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The museum is surrounded by four hectares of land, partly covered by a deciduous forest. Since its beginning (1997), the museum has been configured as a place of research, conservation and enhancement of the material and immaterial heritage of the Dolomites. The exhibition sections reflect a particular attention to the intangible heritage, through a constant dialogue between objects, images (many of which are chronophotographic sequences of daily gestures, postures during a specific work, facial micromimic when singing, etc.) and sounds. There are some sections specifically dedicated to intangible heritage (folk tales and legends, songs and music, emigration, animal talks, language and dialects, local knowledge on nature, traditional food culture). During the years, numerous events focusing on folk tales and legends have been organized, with the involvement of traditional storytellers. The Museum is the result of a close collaboration with the Cesiomaggiore Folk Group (30 members), which, through a specific convention, actively participates in the life of the museum. The members of the Group are ICH-pratictioners, mainly of peasant origin, who are bearers of a rich intangible heritage, e.g. singing and dance, but also oral history, practices of agriculture and traditional crafts. The educational activities, in which some of the members of the Cesiomaggiore Folk Group and other territorial ICH-pratictioners are also involved, are aimed at preserving the value of the tangible and intangible heritage preserved in the museum and transmitting it to new generations.

From the earth to the table

Description of the project / practice / program

The project started in 1999 with the research 'Anthropization of a territory: cultivated biodiversity', in collaboration with the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park and the local Institute for Agriculture, and continues in 2003 with the activities related to the project 'Biodiversity: from cataloging to conservation', which lead in the years following the creation of fields and orchards for educational purposes and conservation of biodiversity by the three institutions involved. Since 2003, the Museum promotes research on the traditional food heritage and on spontaneous alimurgical plants, concluded in 2012 with the project 'Mountains of food. Venetian cuisine between history and memory'. These multi-year projects, in addition to the collection of important oral testimonies on the topics investigated, led to the preparation of permanent exhibition sections in the museum dedicated to agricultural biodiversity and the traditional food system, and, in the land adjacent to the museum, to the creation of a garden of ancient local roses, an orchard, a didactic vegetable garden, and an apiary for educational purposes.

Middle school students close to the museum work the land under the guidance of teachers, traditional farmers and with the cooperation of associations particularly attentive to biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, experimenting with traditional or innovative techniques (synergistic agriculture, biodynamic agriculture, etc.). Once collected, the products are transformed for the realization of traditional or innovative dishes, in collaboration with the local professional hotel institute. In 2018 a kitchen for educational activities will be restored and made functional.

The local beekeepers, who have built a small apiary for educational purposes, transmit information about the functioning of the hive, the characteristics and local names of the flora from which the bees collect the nectar and the pollen, educating them to perceive the diversity of taste among the different types of honey. The actors involved in the activities described above are flanked by some members of the Folkloric Group and by educational operators of the museum, with specific anthropological training, which in turn propose laboratories on biodiversity, food and mountain agriculture.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

During the years, the museum has managed to reach two main goals:

  • on one hand, to build an important archive which collects a significant part of the intangible heritage of local communities;
  • on the other, to network people with different skills and aspirations: researchers, experts, students, traditional farmers, custodians of the local biodiversity, young people attentive to sustainable experimentation in agriculture, bee-keepers, young anthropologists specialized in educational activities, and people who masters the traditional practices of food preparation.

The museum has become a place of aggregation and comparison. The educational activities led by anthropologists have played a fundamental role in involving younger generations and in transmitting the material and intangible heritage.

Also, through the practical activities of seed selection, cultivation of the land and breeding of bees, an interesting intergenerational comparison is taking place, where the transmission of the knowledge of the ICH-practitioners reaches its maximum effectiveness. The observation by young students of the gestures and postures of the body of ICH-practitioners, listening to their testimonies on traditional agriculture, meteorology, vocabulary, ethnobotany, the preparation of food and the practical practice of activities have favored the transmission of knowledge to new generations and strengthened in the ICH-practitioners the awareness of the importance of their role and of the heritage of knowledge of which they are custodians. The conservation and transmission of the heritage of knowledge related to biodiversity and mountain agriculture are particularly important in this Dolomite context, where the resilience of local communities can help to stem the now dramatic phenomenon of the advance of the wooded areas, creating the conditions for new forms of sustainable development.

CV of the author

Daniela Perco, anthropologist, has founded the Ethnographic Museum of the Belluno Province and the Belluno Dolomites National Park, of which she has been director since 1997. Her studies are mainly aimed at intangible heritage (fairy tales and legends, autobiographies, agrarian customs and food). On these issues she carried out field research in southern Egypt, in the eastern Alpine area and in rural communities of Italian origin in southern Brazil.

She was a member of the working group for the definition of the BDI cataloging card layout (Immaterial Demo-ethno-anthropological Heritage) on behalf of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities (MIBACT).



23 March 2018 from 13:11 to 13:11



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