“In someone else’s shoes”

Museum of Natural History and Archaeology | Montebelluna (Treviso)


• leading partner: City Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, Montebelluna
• partner institutions: Museum of Boots and Sport Shoes; CTP (Centre for Adult Education and Training) “Montebelluna 2”; Social Cooperative “Una Casa per l’Uomo”; Social Cooperative “Kirikù”; “Carlo Scarpa” evening high school; “Fotosocial” collective.


Funding bodies
The project was co-funded by the Museum (staff costs and education material), Montebelluna Lions Club and the local CTP.
A video was produced thanks to the support of ECCOM – Ideas for Culture, a Rome-based organisation, within the framework of the European project “Museum Mediators”


• to guide participants in the discovery of the local material culture underpinning the socio-economic reality in which they live through the knowledge of the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology and the Museum of Boots and Sport Shoes
• to foster the interaction between partner organisations with a view to promoting cultural growth, historical recollection and the social integration of citizens (namely youths and women) with diverse cultural backgrounds
• to promote the use and accessibility of museum collections as a vehicle to encourage cultural participation, mutual respect and a sense of belonging
• to bring personal stories to the surface through the relationship between participants and objects – their own shoes
• to reinforce group allegiance by sharing project participants’ stories, whether written or filmed.


Target groups
• a CTP class for middle school diploma
• a group of migrant women living in Montebelluna
• a class of the “Carlo Scarpa” evening high school.


Duration of the project
From September 2012 to May 2013.


Project description
The project was organised in the following working phases:
• “A journey in time when we were migrants” workshop: aimed at promoting the interaction between the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, the local CTP and school, and the group of women, it involved reading or listening to the stories of Italian migrants (letters, audio interviews, folk music performed by the artist Francesca Gallo) between the late nineteenth century and the second world war. School and CTP teachers actively took part in the preparation of materials and in the re-elaboration of personal and cultural resonances triggered by the museum workshop, through group discussions and the production of written texts at school
• group-specific guided visits to the Museum of Boots and Sports Shoes: by promoting the knowledge of the local heritage, the visits were meant to put youths and women in contact with the traditional craftsmanship at the roots of the economic development of Montebelluna’s region as a world-renowned Sport-system District. The workshop on migration at the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology and the visits to the Museum of Boots and Sport Shoes provided documentary evidence of the material culture underpinning local identity. The investigation of this material, mediated by institutional partners in small groups, also triggered a reflection on the theme of separation from the place of origin and resettlement in a new context, by promoting personal storytelling through the production of autobiographical texts and videos
• storytelling workshop: participants were guided by the educators of partner organisations in a “third journey” through storytelling sessions on their own shoes, whether actually used or an object of desire; the collage technique was employed to initiate narration and the sharing of personal stories
• presentation of the project outcomes: new life is breathed into every journey when it is shared through words, images or music. “In someone else’s shoes” encouraged this process at different levels: within individual groups, between different groups and with the local community at large, on the occasion of the International Museum Day at the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology.


Lessons to be learned
In organisational terms, the project’s main strengths may be outlined as follows:
• the willingness of the working group to devote extra time to the project through inter-institutional meetings, e-mail exchanges and discussions
• the inclusion of the project in the CTP’s school programme
• the involvement of cultural mediators with a migrant background previously trained by the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology itself (e.g. the training course “Museum: a carpet between worlds”
) in the guided visits to the Museum of Boots and Sport Shoes
• the outreach activities carried out at school and the CTP venue by the Museum staff (“the museum beyond its walls”).


As for the relationship between the Museum and the target groups, the project managed to:
• foster self-confidence in participants, by highlighting their personal input, experiences and skills
• promote the accessibility of an important local cultural institution, normally perceived as “exclusive”
• initiate exchange and an attitude for listening at different levels: between members of the project team, between the working group and participants, and between participants themselves
• recognise and highlight the diverse knowledge systems and interpretations of individual participants
• involve project participants’ families and friends in subsequent museum activities.

The project team also encountered some difficulties:
• the photographers and videomakers who had not taken part in all the previous working phases were experienced by youths and women as “intruders”
• the project as a whole would have benefited from more meetings between the working group members: some project partners had already worked together, which meant that some dynamics were given for granted to the detriment of the other professionals involved, especially in the initial phases of the project
• budget constraints required a lot of effort on the part of the project team in terms of time management and the choice of the tools to be employed; they also hindered museum mediators (see above) from being involved in the initial phases of the project
• defining language skills through the entrance exam at the CTP turned out to be rather problematic as these skills progressed throughout the project; this also meant it was not always easy to prepare educational materials which were tailored to the actual needs and competencies of participants.

Publications / other resources
A DVD assembling the video interviews of participants telling the story of their own shoes, along with an 8-minute video on the project as a whole were produced, and may be viewed on request at the Museum of Natural History and Archaeology. 

A short trailer of the project is also available in the video produced in the framework of the European project “Museum Mediators”.


Contact details
Museo di Storia Naturale e Archeologia di Montebelluna
via Piave, 51 – 31044 Montebelluna (TV)
tel. +39.0423.609031
– Angela Trevisin, responsible for the Museum’s documentation centre and education activities on archaeological collections
tel. +39.0423.609031


Project description published in: September 2014

Target Groups

Youths and women attending Centres for Adult Education and Training