“The Museum as a space for dialogue and socio-cultural inclusion”

City Museum of Zoology | Rome


• Leading partner: City Museum of Zoology of Rome
• Other partners: two Centres for Political Refugees and a local parish assisting the Roma community.


Funding bodies
Roma Capitale (City of Rome) and the Ministry of Youth (for the participation and training of young trainees, see below).


The project was aimed at exploring ways in which to create and nurture a new relationship with citizens “unknown” to the Museum, along with the (self)training of professionals in promoting the access of excluded segments of Rome’s population.
More in particular, the objectives set for the project were to:
• promote the social and cultural integration of disadvantaged or marginalised groups
• foster participation in the city’s cultural life and resources
• initiate new social interactions
• develop greater self-confidence and esteem in participants
• promote the encounter and exchange between diverse knowledge systems and traditions
• help participants become aware of new recreational and occupational opportunities.


Target groups
Non-visitors of the Museum include segments of the population such as first-generation migrants, ethnic minorities like the Roma community (around 8,000 living in Rome) and political refugees. Apart from the opportunities of integration offered by school attendance (when it happens), these citizens remain segregated within their own “cultural islands”, by necessity or choice, for lack of opportunity or personal motivation. The pilot project was devoted to these groups; more in particular, it involved:
• a small community of young and adult Romani people
• a group of underage and adult political refugees from different nationalities and countries, mainly from Africa.


Duration of the project
The project was carried out between 2011 and 2012.


Project description
The project team was composed of educators supported by curators and a taxidermist, assisted by a group of trainees with university degrees in different disciplines. The latter were trained by the Museum staff with a view to:
• familiarising with the Museum’s collections and resources (publications, videos etc.) potentially conducive to intercultural exchange
• carrying out bibliographical research on intercultural experiences in scientific museums
• exploring issues of communication and interaction between cultural and linguistic diversities
• preparing materials to be employed with project participants in both museum workshops and outreach activities.
As for the project structure, the model successfully tested with “Taking the Museum beyond its walls and into the city’s deprived areas”, a previous pilot experience developed by the Museum of Zoology, was replicated:
• establishing contacts with the local community and inviting them to the Museum, with the observation of specimens used to create an interest in participants and give them a taste of the collections’ richness;
• workshops at the Museum;
• feedback of participants and/or outreach events and activities in the Museum.
Animals were chosen as the topic which would trigger mutual knowledge and exchange: all participants in the project, albeit with different cultural backgrounds, had previous experiences, interests and stories to share in this respect, and the peculiar vision/interpretation of Museum staff was a source of curiosity. Young refugees visited the Museum several times, first with their tutors and subsequently on their own or with their friends. Visits included the exploration of exhibits, but also taxidermy, drawing and naturalistic painting workshops. Once having acquired a new confidence and familiarity with the Museum, participants became “tutors” in turn for adult refugees. Roma adults who had taken part in an introductory meeting organised by the local parish came back several times to the Museum with children from their community. All meetings, which took place in a friendly and informal atmosphere, were creative and constructive, with clear demonstrations of interest and participation.
Evaluation was carried out throughout the project, and comprised:
• questionnaires and interviews with participants
• “ethological” observation of interactions between group participants, and between groups and Museum staff/trainees
• focus groups between Museum staff and trainees following each activity
• materials produced by participants throughout the project (texts, drawings etc.).


Lessons to be learned
• The Museum and its activities seemed to raise enthusiasm in all these new visitors. The evaluation carried out throughout the project (see above) allowed the Museum staff to detect changes in knowledge, interests and attitudes of several participants (both political refugees and Roma individuals). Outreach activities, the opportunity to have a first-hand interaction with museum collections and materials, and the relationship of reciprocity which was established between participants and the Museum staff were key factors of success.
• However, after the project was completed visits soon stopped and none of the groups spontaneously asked for new activities, nor did they keep their relationship with the Museum alive. The problems these people experience in everyday life hinder the development of long-term perspectives of cultural participation; moreover, projects targeted at them are mainly welfare-oriented, and do not encourage cultural growth beyond school. As a consequence, the Museum is perceived as a place to have a pleasant, but sporadic and unnecessary experience; only through programmes which are more continuative, structured and ground-breaking may these citizens be really encouraged to take part in the community’s cultural life.


Contact details
City Museum of Zoology of Rome
via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18 – 00197 Rome
tel. +39. 06.67109270
– Elisabetta Falchetti, Head of Education and project coordinator


Project description published in: September 2014

Target Groups

Young and adult Romani people, unaccompanied minors, political refugees