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Six million Italians visit corporate museums – industrial tourism fosters the economy

Over the past four years, almost six million Italians (5.8 million to be precise) visited a corporate museum, corporate historical archives or an industrial archaeological site, driven by the desire to better understand what lies behind the iconic objects embodying the best ‘Made in Italy’ qualities, learn about the history, art and design of companies, and understand the relationships between industry and territory. Visitors are primarily young people (mostly aged between 30 and 44 years), well-educated, mainly from the northern regions and consider the experience “educational and instructive”. Further, amongst the 34 million Italians that – again over the past four years – travelled a distance or at least out of town for the day, 21% would be happy to visit a corporate museum, while 17% has already done so. An interesting opportunity to develop “industrial tourism” and a rather stimulating prospective for those who care about the dissemination of economic history, the relaunch of corporate culture and a more widespread and responsible understanding of the role of our manufacturing companies and services in enhancing Italy’s economic development.

The most visited museums include the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, followed by the Industrial Village of Crespi d’Adda in the province of Bergamo, the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese, the Lavazza Museum in Turin and the Olivetti Historical Archives in Ivrea – there’s certainly room for more, to enhance further businesses throughout Italy.

The data comes from a research study entitled “Il turismo industriale in Italia: dimensioni, percezione e potenzialità di sviluppo” (“Industrial tourism in Italy: dimensions, perceptions and potential for development”), curated by Nomisma and commissioned by Museimpresa (the Italian Association of business archives and corporate museums founded over 20 years ago at the instigation of entrepreneurial associations Assolombarda and Confindustria, which today counts over 130 members and institutional supporters, including large, medium and small companies and respected economic and cultural institutions), and will serve as a basis for a genuine industrial tourism monitoring hub to measure its extent and potential and to evaluate its impact on businesses and territories. It’s an attainable goal: the creation of more and better synergies between corporate museums and science and architectural exhibitions, historical associations, science and economics festivals, cultural events (with a focus, for instance, on literature, cinema and photography related to labour and industry).

The study was presented last weekend during the Museimpresa’s annual conference held in Matera, in Pisticci (at the Essenza Lucano Museum), in Altamura (with an event at the Vito Forte Bread Museum, Oropan), and in Andria at the Confetto Nucci Museum. The theme of the conference was “Carte d’archivio, mappe di sviluppo” (“Archival documents, development maps”) and included a focus on the South of Italy, too. It’s aim is not only to enhance the manufacturing industry – a key cornerstone for better balanced economic and social growth – but also to reflect on how negative side effects such as so-called overtourism (when cities and town are taken over by hurried, sloppy tourists who basically don’t care about the beauty of environments and territories) can be avoided while promoting tourism, emphasising the cultural, architectural, scientific and industrial values of sites steeped in history, entrepreneurship, and the ability to “do, do well and do good”.

Indeed, those territories where most corporate museums and archives are located provide interesting examples of how enterprises, science, technology and culture interlink. They accommodate “beautiful factories”, that is, architecturally well-planned factories that are environmentally sustainable, bright and safe (there are a few instances of them nowadays, including the Pirelli plant in Settimo Torinese designed by Renzo Piano, nicknamed the “cherry orchard factory”), confirming the virtuous relationships between productivity and high-quality work, under the banner of true “industrial humanism”. And it is indeed within the connections with the local culture and traditions of productive districts (mechanics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automotive, agro-food, wood and furnishing, etc.) that the characteristics typical of ‘Made in Italy’ quality are best showcased: a synergetic interaction between competitiveness and social inclusion, a deep sense of beauty (design is its main instance) and a dynamic propensity for innovation.

In fact, the geographical map of our corporate archives and museums tells the story of an enterprising, hard-working Italy, aware that its own history is a key lever in the country’s sustainable development – a valuable vital economic and cultural heritage on which to build a better future for the new generations.

A lever that must be enhanced, especially now, with a struggling economy, low growth and concerns for high inflation and rates (which are stunting investments and inflating the public debt, thus depriving public projects of the resources needed for reforms and development). And, once more, it’s up to businesses to do their utmost to ensure that their production and export abilities can continue to keep the GDP scraping just above a threshold of “0. …”.

And to do so, it’s essential that we divulge our entrepreneurial wealth and heritage – both past and present – in a better and more extensive manner than ever before, through an open, critical and honest dialogue engaging companies and figures from the cultural world, such as literature, theatre and cinema, so as to engender a dialogic relation between know-how and its narration, as well as making the most – yet another aspect highlighted by the Nomisma study – of digital opportunities.

What should this narration include, then? Well, the ability of industries, banks, insurances and utility companies to “produce beautiful things that the world likes“ (as by the brilliant definition by historian Carlo M. Cipolla), a talent that was and remains a development tool benefitting the territories native to such businesses and a unique competitiveness asset on the international markets.

This is why industrial tourism – the focus of the Nomisma study commissioned by Museimpresa – not only represents a journey encompassing sites of labour and industrial production, but embodies, above all, an inspiring path to discover the significance of the bonds that unite sciences and humanities, new technologies and a strong sense of community.

A journey, indeed, across the open confines of the extraordinary social capital constituted by “hands that can conceive”.

Over the past four years, almost six million Italians (5.8 million to be precise) visited a corporate museum, corporate historical archives or an industrial archaeological site, driven by the desire to better understand what lies behind the iconic objects embodying the best ‘Made in Italy’ qualities, learn about the history, art and design of companies, and understand the relationships between industry and territory. Visitors are primarily young people (mostly aged between 30 and 44 years), well-educated, mainly from the northern regions and consider the experience “educational and instructive”. Further, amongst the 34 million Italians that – again over the past four years – travelled a distance or at least out of town for the day, 21% would be happy to visit a corporate museum, while 17% has already done so. An interesting opportunity to develop “industrial tourism” and a rather stimulating prospective for those who care about the dissemination of economic history, the relaunch of corporate culture and a more widespread and responsible understanding of the role of our manufacturing companies and services in enhancing Italy’s economic development.

The most visited museums include the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, followed by the Industrial Village of Crespi d’Adda in the province of Bergamo, the Alfa Romeo Historical Museum in Arese, the Lavazza Museum in Turin and the Olivetti Historical Archives in Ivrea – there’s certainly room for more, to enhance further businesses throughout Italy.

The data comes from a research study entitled “Il turismo industriale in Italia: dimensioni, percezione e potenzialità di sviluppo” (“Industrial tourism in Italy: dimensions, perceptions and potential for development”), curated by Nomisma and commissioned by Museimpresa (the Italian Association of business archives and corporate museums founded over 20 years ago at the instigation of entrepreneurial associations Assolombarda and Confindustria, which today counts over 130 members and institutional supporters, including large, medium and small companies and respected economic and cultural institutions), and will serve as a basis for a genuine industrial tourism monitoring hub to measure its extent and potential and to evaluate its impact on businesses and territories. It’s an attainable goal: the creation of more and better synergies between corporate museums and science and architectural exhibitions, historical associations, science and economics festivals, cultural events (with a focus, for instance, on literature, cinema and photography related to labour and industry).

The study was presented last weekend during the Museimpresa’s annual conference held in Matera, in Pisticci (at the Essenza Lucano Museum), in Altamura (with an event at the Vito Forte Bread Museum, Oropan), and in Andria at the Confetto Nucci Museum. The theme of the conference was “Carte d’archivio, mappe di sviluppo” (“Archival documents, development maps”) and included a focus on the South of Italy, too. It’s aim is not only to enhance the manufacturing industry – a key cornerstone for better balanced economic and social growth – but also to reflect on how negative side effects such as so-called overtourism (when cities and town are taken over by hurried, sloppy tourists who basically don’t care about the beauty of environments and territories) can be avoided while promoting tourism, emphasising the cultural, architectural, scientific and industrial values of sites steeped in history, entrepreneurship, and the ability to “do, do well and do good”.

Indeed, those territories where most corporate museums and archives are located provide interesting examples of how enterprises, science, technology and culture interlink. They accommodate “beautiful factories”, that is, architecturally well-planned factories that are environmentally sustainable, bright and safe (there are a few instances of them nowadays, including the Pirelli plant in Settimo Torinese designed by Renzo Piano, nicknamed the “cherry orchard factory”), confirming the virtuous relationships between productivity and high-quality work, under the banner of true “industrial humanism”. And it is indeed within the connections with the local culture and traditions of productive districts (mechanics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, automotive, agro-food, wood and furnishing, etc.) that the characteristics typical of ‘Made in Italy’ quality are best showcased: a synergetic interaction between competitiveness and social inclusion, a deep sense of beauty (design is its main instance) and a dynamic propensity for innovation.

In fact, the geographical map of our corporate archives and museums tells the story of an enterprising, hard-working Italy, aware that its own history is a key lever in the country’s sustainable development – a valuable vital economic and cultural heritage on which to build a better future for the new generations.

A lever that must be enhanced, especially now, with a struggling economy, low growth and concerns for high inflation and rates (which are stunting investments and inflating the public debt, thus depriving public projects of the resources needed for reforms and development). And, once more, it’s up to businesses to do their utmost to ensure that their production and export abilities can continue to keep the GDP scraping just above a threshold of “0. …”.

And to do so, it’s essential that we divulge our entrepreneurial wealth and heritage – both past and present – in a better and more extensive manner than ever before, through an open, critical and honest dialogue engaging companies and figures from the cultural world, such as literature, theatre and cinema, so as to engender a dialogic relation between know-how and its narration, as well as making the most – yet another aspect highlighted by the Nomisma study – of digital opportunities.

What should this narration include, then? Well, the ability of industries, banks, insurances and utility companies to “produce beautiful things that the world likes“ (as by the brilliant definition by historian Carlo M. Cipolla), a talent that was and remains a development tool benefitting the territories native to such businesses and a unique competitiveness asset on the international markets.

This is why industrial tourism – the focus of the Nomisma study commissioned by Museimpresa – not only represents a journey encompassing sites of labour and industrial production, but embodies, above all, an inspiring path to discover the significance of the bonds that unite sciences and humanities, new technologies and a strong sense of community.

A journey, indeed, across the open confines of the extraordinary social capital constituted by “hands that can conceive”.