“There’s a garden in every story”

Botanical Garden | Turin


The Botanical Garden, established in 1729, is a branch institute of the Department of Plant Biology of the University of Turin. It preserves and displays specimens from the local flora as well as exotic curiosities.
“There’s a garden in every story” was not initiated by the Botanical Garden, but was launched as the continuation of “A Heritage for All” (2005-2007), a three-year programme of the City of Turin’s Department of Cultural Heritage Education aimed at promoting the cultural participation of “new citizens” by experimenting with story-telling and other forms of active involvement of immigrant communities in structuring museum visits and interpreting collections, in which most of the project team (teachers of local CTPs – Centres for Adult Education and Training, cultural mediators and a researcher in cultural economics) took part.
The Botanical Garden joined the project and represented the ideal space for planning and implementing the activities; partnership with the Gardens of the Royal Palace of Venaria was also important.


· Leading partner: “A Heritage for All” working group
· Other partners: Botanical Garden of Turin, CTP “Parini”, ASAI – Association of Intercultural Animation, Gardens of the Royal Palace of Venaria.


Funding bodies
European funding (Grundtvig project “MAP for ID – Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue”).


· to promote diversity as an opportunity for mutual self-enrichment (as highlighted in the history of the Botanical Garden and Venaria’s Gardens: presence of exotic plants, hybrids)
· for autochthonous participants: to approach and appreciate different cultures starting from the surrounding reality, by discovering the distant origins of familiar parts of the city
· for participants of immigrant background: to create a connection between their “new home” and their original culture.


Target groups
One class of immigrant students (youths and adults) from CTP “Parini;” one class of students from a local high school specialising in art subjects; native and migrant users of a community centre (ASAI – Association of Intercultural Animation) based in the neighbourhood of San Salvario, Turin’s multiethnic heart.


Duration of the project
September 2008 – June 2009.


Project description
“There’s a garden in every story” is one of the 30 pilot projects supported and implemented in the framework of the Grundtvig project “MAP for ID – Museums as Places for Intercultural Dialogue”.
The project was based on a study of target groups’ needs carried out in the framework of the programme “A Heritage for All”, which, by making use of the quantitative and qualitative techniques of social research, had traced an initial overview of immigrant communities’ participation patterns in the city’s cultural life.

“There’s a garden in every story” was organised in the following phases:
· presentation of the project, based on the metaphor of migrants who, like trees, adapt to a new environment by striking roots in new grounds far away from home;
· four meetings were held at the venues of the partners involved (high school, CTP “Parini” and ASAI – Association of Intercultural Animation), during which the following activities took place: readings of extracts from famous authors as well as autobiographical stories written by some members of the project team; tea ceremony; brainstorming and other activities on the theme of gardens. All these activities triggered reflections, debate, creative writing, pictures, graphic and audiovisual materials produced by participants;
· visits to the Botanical Garden and to the Gardens of the Royal Palace of Venaria, specifically targeted at immigrant participants, and centred around histories and anecdotes on plants; participants were provided with disposable cameras and asked to take pictures of what they found most fascinating;
· reading of extracts from Duccio Demetrio’s (a renowned expert of the autobiographical method) text Which garden are you from? Autobiographical narratives; use of a range of techniques (video, drawings, short stories) to build on the initial themes of the project. After having worked, at school and in situ, on the narratives of others, participants finally discovered how to become the authors of their own life histories;
· final event at the Botanical Garden, with exchange of project materials between the different groups (pictures, videos, short stories). A small tree was planted in the “Grove” as a symbol and reminder of the experience.


Outcomes of the project
The project had a positive impact on participants in terms of:
· development of a new curiosity and interest towards “other” cultures
· positive interpersonal relations
· retrieving and sharing past emotions and experiences
· acknowledging that the values and meanings of cultural heritage are enriched by personal perspectives
· a thorough knowledge of the Botanical Garden.
On the other hand, the fact that the project team was external to the museum and ran the activities in its spare time on a voluntary basis, meant that some of its members had time management difficulties.


Publications / other resources
– Final publication of the MAP for ID project: S. Bodo, K. Gibbs, M. Sani (eds.), Museums as places for intercultural dialogue: selected practices from Europe (2009)

Contact details
Botanical Garden of Turin
viale Mattioli 25 – 10125 Turin

– Project coordinator for the Botanical Garden:
Rosanna Caramiello, Director
– Project coordinators for the “Heritage for All” working group:
Sandra Aloia, researcher in cultural economics
Patrizia Trebini, external consultant of local CTPs (former teacher)

Target Groups

Immigrant students from a local Centre for Adult Education and Training; individuals with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds (Italians included) attending an intercultural community centre