Training course for Mediators of Intercultural Heritages

CSA - Centre for African Studies | Turin


· CSA – Centro Studi Africani di Torino (Centre for African Studies, Turin) (leading partner)
· “Holden Art – Formule di narrazione” (an organisation devoted to exploring the potential of story-telling applied to museums)
· the NGO “Mondo Minore onlus”
· Museum partners: Museo di Antropologia ed Etnografia dell’Università di Torino; Museo Civico d’Arte Antica e Palazzo Madama (Turin), Museo Etnografico dell’Istituto dei Fratelli della Sacra Famiglia (Chieri), Museo Storico Valdese (Torre Pellice), Museo del Territorio Biellese (Biella).

Funding bodies

Regione Piemonte – DG Cultural Heritage.


– to address the new social, cultural and citizenship needs expressed by migrant communities living in Piedmont
– to safeguard and promote a wider knowledge of the many African collections preserved in museums and galleries around Piedmont
– to use the African heritage (whether tangible or intangible) preserved in Piedmont’s museums and collections as a platform to test new forms of cultural access, participation, mediation and inclusion
– to provide cultural mediators and museum educators with the interdisciplinary skills and the planning and operational paradigms needed to make the African collections more accessible for a wide range of audiences (also in an intercultural perspective)
– to train qualified professionals in the interpretation and narration of African collections, also by exploiting the individual knowledge and stories that make up their “own” cultural heritage
– to design “narrated itineraries” of the African collections, where identities of migrant communities are represented with a view to promoting participation and intercultural exchange
– to challenge the conceptual framework traditionally adopted by museums in the development, conservation and interpretation of African collections.


Target groups
Cultural mediators with an immigrant background and museum educators.


Duration of the project
September 2007 – February 2008.


Project description
The training course for cultural mediators is to be considered in the framework of a wider project launched by CSA in 2005 to address the new social, cultural and citizenship needs expressed by migrant communities living in Piedmont (“Migrants and Cultural Heritages”).

Phase 1: quantitative and qualitative surveys of African collections and communities in Piedmont, networking with other museums engaged in intercultural projects, consultation of target groups (2005 – June 2007)
– The way for the training course of cultural mediators was paved by a thorough preparatory work, started with a survey of African collections (already carried out by CSA in 1998) and,  more recently, with a research on migrant communities and associations in Piedmont.  Qualitative evidence on the cultural needs, perceptions and expectations of African migrant communities was also gathered through interviews to family groups.
– Networking and exchange of views with other museums/institutions engaged in heritage education projects in an intercultural perspective (City of Turin – Department of Cultural Heritage Education, “A heritage for all” project; Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bergamo, “Guests of honour” project and training course for museum mediators) provided the working group with useful suggestions for a better definition of the project’s contents and methodology.
– The structure of the training course and of the “narrative trails” was eventually planned in close connection with the beneficiaries of the project: working groups formed by mediators and museum educators were consulted with regard to their needs and expectations, as well as to the available resources and the constraints which they expected to meet both at an institutional and at an individual level when trying to transfer what they had learned into their respective realities.

Phase 2: training course for mediators and experimentation of “narrative trails” (September 2007 – February 2008)
– The training course (September – December 2007) was organised in four modules: joint training (museum communication; African art in/outside the museum; autobiographical approach, story-telling and intercultural education), site-specific training (exploring collections at the museums involved and selecting emblematic objects), joint planning in small working groups and pre-experimentation (development of “narrated itineraries” to be tested with some of the families and groups interviewed in the first phase of the project), presentation of the projects to the whole group of participants.
– The “Oggetto di incontro narrative trails” (January – February 2008) took place at Palazzo Madama – Museum of Ancient Art (Turin), the Waldensian Historical Museum (Torre Pellice) and the Museum of Biella territory (Biella), and were led by mediators from Chad, Comoros Islands, Congo, Italy, Morocco and Romania. Objects from African, Central American and Piedmontese collections were selected for the itineraries as an opportunity to tell stories and fables, to evoke rituals and ways of life, to bring alive the knowledge and practices of cultural traditions once far away from Italy and today close at hand. Some of the itineraries were filmed, and may be viewed in the “Video” section of this website.
– The official presentation of the training course and of the project “Migrants and Cultural Heritages” as a whole has taken place during the workshop “Oggetto di incontro” (Turin, 25 February 2008).


Lessons to be learned
As CSA’s project shows, training is crucial not only in terms of professional development, but also from a relational point of view (this is particularly the case when participants are actively involved through consultation and joint planning at the initial stages of the project): individuals coming from different institutional and professional contexts have a vital opportunity to exchange experiences, learn from one another, compare and reflect on their respective roles and responsibilities, interweave perspectives and languages.
In the “narrated itineraries”, story-telling and a dialogical understanding of “heritage” have been used effectively to bring to life the multiple points of view and unique real-life stories thanks to which museums become “contact zones”, places for exchange between people with different backgrounds, but all united by the multicultural context in which they live.
On the other hand, the training course has highlighted a number of problems:
– the limited participation of museum educators in the modules devoted to joint training, planning and pre-experimentation
– the difficulty in sharing a “common language” (concepts, methodologies, goals…)
– the difficulty in developing and experimenting with an “integrated notion of heritage” (addressing the cognitive as well as the emotional and relational sphere,  etc.)
– at least in the short term, the lack of professional prospects for the mediators who took part in the training course. With the only exception of the Museum of Biella territory, the museums involved in the project have not shown any particular interest in exploring future opportunities for the development of heritage education projects in an intercultural perspective. Compared with the experience of Bergamo’s Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, where mediators are becoming a constant presence and an indispensable interlocutor of the Education Department, this shows how far many museums still are from showing an actual willingness to share with communities some of the responsibility for the collections and their interpretation.

Publications / other resources
– Pecci A. M. (ed.), Patrimoni in migrazione, FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2009.
– Pecci A. M., Migranti e patrimoni culturali. Nuove voci nei musei per una “valorizzazione interculturale”, in “Africa e Mediterraneo”, n. 62, Lai-momo, Sasso Marconi (BO), 2008.

Contact details
Centro Studi Africani
Via Vanchiglia, 4e – 10124 Torino
tel. +39.011.4365 006
– Anna Maria Pecci, co-ordinator of the project
tel. +39.011.4365 006/4310 548

Target Groups

Cultural mediators with an immigrant background and museum educators