“Objects, fragments of culture”

Fondazione Accorsi - Museum of Decorative Arts | “Braccini” Centre for Adult Education and Training | Torino

· Fondazione Accorsi – Museum of Decorative Arts and “Braccini” Centre for Adult Education and Training (Turin) (leading partners)
· City of Turin – Department of Cultural Heritage Education.


Funding bodies
The project has been supported by the City of Turin – Department of Cultural Heritage Education within the framework of the three-year programme “A heritage for all”.


· to explore the museum and its collections as an ideal setting for lifelong learning and cultural exchange
· to enrich the museum’s education services through the inclusion of the participants’ voices, viewpoints and stories.


Target groups
Adult learners with an immigrant background attending evening classes at a local Centre for Adult Education and Training.


Duration of the project

Project description
“Objects, fragments of culture”, a partnership between the Accorsi Museum and a local Centre for Adult Education and Training, is one of the pilot projects developed by Turin’s museums in the framework of the programme “A heritage for all”, launched by the City of Turin – Department of Cultural Heritage Education in 2005 to promote a culturally inclusive approach to the mediation and interpretation of museum collections. The Department’s support was vital not only in financial but also in training terms, as it offered the education staff of a number of local museums – the Accorsi Museum included – the opportunity to take part in the European project “Museums Tell Many Stories”
(2005-2007). In fact, the creation of a European network of museums interested in exploring story-telling and other forms of active involvement of immigrant communities in structuring museum visits and interpreting collections was a key source of inspiration and mutual learning.
Guidelines for the experimentation of “Objects, fragments of culture” were jointly developed by the museum education staff and the “Braccini” Centre’s tutors.
The first phase takes place in the classroom through a series of meetings devoted to the description of the project and the presentation of the museum; before the meetings take place, participants are provided with contextual information on the collections’ history (prepared by the tutors) and with a glossary (prepared by the museum education staff, and subsequently enriched through discussion in the classroom); this preparatory work is followed by a general visit to the museum.
In the second phase of the project, adult learners are more actively involved in the learning process, which is shaped by their own interests and curiosities. The idea is to invite participants to select (among the following typologies: carpets, porcelain and furniture) the kind of object around which they would like to carry out a more thorough investigation. A themed visit is then devoted to the chosen artefact, which becomes the focus not only for reflection on Turin’s history, but also for dialogue, exchange and mutual knowledge between participants, who compare their everyday experience in relation to that particular kind of object. The learning process is completed by a practical workshop (e.g. carpet weaving, decoration on ceramics).
Images, teaching materials and interviews with participants have been published on a CD-Rom documenting the whole process.


Lessons to be learned
As many experiences of lifelong learning in museums show – and this is one of the key strengths of “Objects, fragments of culture” –, adults enjoy contributing their own knowledge, experience and opinions to the learning process. As opposed to school groups, adults «are more likely to get involved in learning because they want to know about something that interests them, or because they need to learn about something for their jobs or in relation to their families and communities. Learning is for a purpose. It is less about memorising facts and pre-digested information and more about exploring new ideas and experiences, weighing up the evidence and coming to some tentative conclusions. It involves developing practical skills and discovering hidden talents» (M. Sani, K. Gibbs, J. Thompson, Lifelong learning in museums: a European Handbook, Edisai, Ferrara, 2007).
Another important factor for the success of the project has been the opportunity to design learning processes (in this particular case, around the theme of inhabited space and its evolution over time) which are based not so much on an occasional visit, as on the continued “exposure” to the museum, its collections and its education staff. Participants have had access to collections and workshop spaces whenever they felt the need to, and were able to take pictures of whatever object seemed useful and relevant for the theme they were exploring.
As objects are part of everybody’s daily experience, the artefacts selected at the Accorsi Museum have been perceived as an opportunity both to learn about the history of the city (as it is told through the museum collections) and to share stories about one’s own life and culture. As Patrizia Trebini, tutor at the “Braccini” Centre for Adult Education and Training, observes, «intercultural activities have always played an important role in our education programme: adult migrants keep on asking us to help them not only to learn the Italian language, but also to interact with the surrounding environment and with people coming from different cultural backgrounds. These activities, which are typically designed to support integration processes, often become also an important opportunity to reflect on / to rediscover one’s own culture».
In spite of difficulties such as time constraints, the insufficient language skills of some participants, the high turnover of students, the project “Objects, fragments of culture” shows how adults, when actively involved in the learning process, find a new pleasure in studying, become more fluent and confident in expressing themselves in a foreign language, develop new interests and talents, enjoy sharing and comparing their stories, beliefs and expectations.

Contact details
Museo di Arti Decorative Fondazione Accorsi
via Po, 55 – 10124 Turin
– Laura Ferretti, Education Service
tel. +39.011.8150770 – +39.011.8129116

Target Groups

Students with an immigrant background attending local Centres for Adult Education and Training