Earlier this year, the SHCY Executive Committee voted unanimously to express its support for the efforts of an archive in Florence to preserve records of singular importance to the history of children and youth. The institute is primarily concerned with contemporary schools and pedagogy, not specifically the history of childhood and youth. But the archive contains a wealth of records dealing with early twentieth-century and the Executive Committee wants to encourage this institute -- and other archives housing similarly important documents -- to recognize the historical significance of these primary sources for the history of children and youth.
As our society's membership knows so well: Our ability to recover the past depends on the preservation of documents in the present for the service of the future. ~~~Steven Mintz, SHCY President
The National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy in Florence and the “School Museum” Project
Pamela Giorgi and Ilaria Bucciarelli
The short article here below aims at describing the documentary heritage of the National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (ANSAS-ex Indire) in Florence, on top of a project to establish a museum focused on this heritage. The goal is to allow SHCY's partners to become familiar with our historical archive, which keeps memories that are highly interesting for the study of Italian education history and activities.
The National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy, better known as Pedagogics Documentation Library or also BDP, is a documentary center with some peculiar features: It is one of the few archives specializing in the collection and valorization of documentary materials on history and pedagogics, on top of the Italian Education History Archive of the Università Cattolica in Brescia, the Eighteenth Century Italian Pedagogics Archive in Florence, the Ernesto Codignola Study Center and the Document and Research Center on the History of School Books and Children's Literature of the Università degli Studi in Macerata.
History of the Institute:
In 1925, Giovanni Calò – ordinary professor of Pedagogics at the Università degli Studi in Florence – organized, in Florence, the national didactic Exhibition (from March 1 to April 15), in order to collect and show the didactic material coming from Italian schools of any type and level, with special focus on the products of the “new schools” promoted by Giuseppe Lombardo Radice, who supported a teaching approach intended as an active experience. This exhibition offered the Fascist regime the opportunity to highlight the results achieved by the “Riforma Gentile” in 1923, which was largely inspired by Lombardo Radice himself, who was General Director of primary schools at that time.
Once the Italian didactic exhibition was closed, Calò proposed and obtained the authorization by the Minister of Public Eduction Pietro Fedele to organize a permanent exhibition using the most interesting teaching materials which had been shown during the exhibition in three rooms that had been made available by the Department of political and social Science of the University of Studies in Florence, in via Laura. This marked the birth of the first core of today's institute, The National Didactic Museum, based on a concept of museum which was typical for the nineteenth century, that is to say a museum was not supposed to be merely a place where to conserve things, but a research laboratory where to collect and analyze the best education practices throughout the Italian school for experimental purposes.
However, the official birth happened only a few years later, with Royal Decree No.1948 dated October 11, 1929, thanks to which the National Didactic Museum was established as a moral entity and Giovanni Calò was appointed General Director. A further step forward was when the National Didactic Museum was named National School Museum with Royal Decree No. 1570 of August 1937.
The consecration of the Florence institute as a national entity happened through a Royal Decree dated July 19, 1941, with which the Minister of National Education Giuseppe Bottai established the National Didactic Center (CDN), which included the National School Museum; the seat was transferred to Palazzo Gerini in Piazza de’ Ciompi.
The historical medieval building belonging to the Civic Authority since the second half of the 19th century was restored by architect Ezio Zalaffi, at that time head of the Office of Fine Arts, who, among other things, redesigned the new renaissance façade on the Eastern side. The original project included also the construction of an additional building adjacent to the palace, which was not built due to the war. The famous architect Giovanni Michelucci was entrusted with the design of the interiors, which were devised in cooperation with Leonardo Ricci and Giuseppe Gori, son of the cabinet maker Gregorio Gori, who manufactured all the furniture within his workshop in via della Dogana in Florence, today partially conserved at the Michelucci Foundation in Fiesole.
The museum had a series of rooms, each one dedicated to a subject concerning a specific teaching area or type of school, for which specific furniture was manufactured based on designs allowing to use several materials and capable to perfectly fit in the surrounding architectonic environment; each room was shaped based on the use it was expected for and there were often wall decorations showing specific subjects that were used as frames for the furniture, like the pergola with birds in the Agriculture Education Room, the zodiac painted on the ceiling of the Nautical Institutions Room and the trompe l’oeil in the Presidency Room, reminding of the renaissance studios.
Nazareno Padellaro, member of the Commission in charge of the editing of the Unique State Text for primary schools was appointed to run the new National Didactic Center, assisted by the future mayor of Florence Piero Bargellini; The President was Giovanni Calò. In Bottai's national school system's reform project, the CDN should have played a primary role, ie of coordination of the activities of ten additional didactic centers that were established throughout the national territory by Law N. 1545 of November 30, 1942 and involved various school types and levels. With inter ministerial Decree of January 25, 1943 the CDN was officially named National Didactic Center and was assigned a twofold purpose: I) to gather evidence on characters and events from the Italian education tradition; II) to be the irradiation center for the didactic renewal of the Italian School.
Few months later, following the deposition of Benito Mussolini (July 25, 1943), the headquarters of the institute were devastated by a furious crowd, who judged it as the symbol of the past regime, as it happened to many other public buildings in Florence. The crossing of the border and the storming of war events, obliged the institute to close.
The CDN was reopened at the end of the war and managed by a commissioner appointed by the National Freedom Committee (CLN), first Carlo Francovich, then Alessandro Setti. In 1949, the Minister of Public Education Guido Gonnella regularly appointed the members of the Council and gave back to the Florence National Didactic Center the financial statements item established by Law N. 1545 of November 30, 1942. The management of the Center was assigned to pedagogue Giovanni Gozzer (later Director of the National Didactic Center for Secondary School in Rome), then replaced by Enzo Petrini in 1952, while Calò kept the presidency.
In 1952, the CDN was named National Didactic Center for Studies and Documentation (CDNSD), and included both the old National School Museum and the National Pedagogics Library (with a books heritage at that time calculated as consisting of 40,000 volumes and over 500 Italian and foreign magazines).
In the years to come, the CDNSD played a key role in the process of renewing the Italian school system, by promoting conventions, continuing education courses for teachers, national and international competitions on childhood literature and children's drawing and steadily kept a close relation with those schools offering teaching experimentation.
In the second half of the Sixties, the institute underwent a heavy stop due to two bad events: the Arno flood, which damaged the rooms and the books and documents heritage of the institute on November 4, 1966 and the death of the historical President Giovanni Calò on May 25, 1970 then replaced by Luigi Campedelli.
A new institutional evolution took place when DPR N. 419 of May 31, 1974 ratified the dissolution of national teaching centers and changed the National didactic center for studies and documentation into Pedagogics Documentation Library (BDP), which was assigned a twofold target: I. gather, conserve and enhance teaching and pedagogics bibliography and documentation material in cooperation with Regional Research, Experimentation and Continuing Education Institutes (IRRSAE) and with the European Education Center (CEDE); II. Develop and run the national pedagogics Library for institutions, learners and school personnel.
In 1980, Giovanni Biondi – who was already member of the first management council of the Pedagogics Documentation Library – was elected vice-president and introduced a substantial renewal of techniques for documentation and circulation of collected data, guaranteeing a continuity of the role played by the institute within the national school system. Presidential Decree Nr. 961 of February 6, 1986 was officially approved in the new by-laws of BDP, which was organized in five sessions: the national pedagogics Library (consisting of education sciences and human sciences division and education history and youth literature division, in charge of the editing of the famous magazine “Schedario”); the school documentation division, in charge of the creation of data bases for continuing education, experimentation, research and innovation; the bibliography documentation division, in charge of the “BIBL Bibliography Project”; the division for international relations and exchanges, dealing with European projects Eurydice and Eudised; and finally the data processing Center. In 1992, Giovanni Biondi was appointed director of the Pedagogics Documentation Library, which was transformed by legislative decree No. 258 of July 20, 1999 into the National Documentation Institute for Innovation and Research (INDIRE), which brought forward and developed the projects promoted by the Library and assigned to the Library by the Ministry of Education, University and Research and by other important international organizations (among which the European Union). In 2007, with the implementation of the 2007 Financial Law (Law No. 296 of December 27, 2006), INDIRE was changed into National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy.
The “School Museum” Project
The school world, with all its implications, represented the main reference point for the activity of the National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (previously INDIRE) over the past years. For this reason, there arose the initiative of an exhibition aimed at reconstructing learning shapes and environments through time. This exhibition would express the basic values of the Agency, it would make the most of the history and at the same time it might contribute towards laying out the change, it would consolidate the work that has been executed over the past years, the words spent in favour of didactic innovation and of the need to change learning environments. This exhibition would acknowledge the value of yesterday's school, an institution which was capable, among great discomfort and absolute lack of means, to introduce generations of young people to culture as an essential background for the achievement of active citizenship positions. At the same time, this exhibition would also define the tracks for the change and would accompany the no-longer-to-be-delayed change of an institution which is too often anchored to its own peculiarities.
Documents, pictures, videos, school desks, blackboards, maps, rubbers and mess-tins would be used as elements for reconstructing the school as it was, available to achademics and designed in view of a constructive interaction with individual visitors and class groups. A historical track which, starting from the reconstruction of the past, would project itself, thanks also to new technologies, towards a school of the future, by contributing to provide the necessary keys for a better understanding of contemporary school conditions, environments and dynamics.
The project, which was conceived according to the hints of the ANSAS (previously INDIRE)'s General Director, Professor Massimo Radiciotti and of the Department Chief of the Ministry of Education, University and Research, Professor Giovanni Biondi, includes the possibility to organize a museum consisting of two separate areas: A documentary area hosting the funds owned by the Agency and an immersive reconstruction based on augmented reality techniques allowing to re-experience the school through technology, with didactical purposes and in a “learning by doing” perspective.
1. Archive-documentary area
The merely documentary area consists of the documentary funds of the Agency's Historical Fund and of the library funds of the National Pedagogics Library (BPN), that are detailed as follows:
Heritage of the previous National Pedagogics Library (BPN), the history of which started in 1925 with the famous national didactic exhibition that was promoted by the Pedagogician Giovanni Calò, developed itsfelf through a complex series of institutional steps.
Funds of the historical Archive of the National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (previously INDIRE), documentary heritage that was inherited by the national didactic center and increased through the acquisition of many funds that are highly interesting for pedagogical purposes.
School materials, dating back between the time of Italy's Unity and the second half of the 20th Century, coming from the antiquarian museum.
Gathering the library funds of the National Pedagogics Library (BPN), the historical Archive of the National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (previously INDIRE) and the collection of “Paolo Ricca” school materials, in a single location, would allow the creation of an important library, archive and musuem pole specializing in pedagogics and history-eduction research on one side and at the same it would contribute to increase the value of the school world within a highly precious frame at citizens and country level.
Here below a list of the possible starting points of the permanent exhibition (subject to additions):
Heritage of the National Pedagogics Library (BPN)
The National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (previously INDIRE) keeps an important pedagogics and education library heritage in its historical seat in Palazzo Gerini (Via Buonarroti 10 – Florence). According to a recent calculation, the library heritage belonging to the Agency seems to amount to 85,872 books and 1,620 magazines, including existing and out of the market magazines, and is split as follows:
The 36,455 books of the National Pedagogics Library can be looked for by using the paper catalogue for the titles entered before 1988, while by means of the BPND bibliography data base (http://www.indire.it/archivi/bpnd.htm) for the titles entered after 1988 (for indexing the books, the European Education Thesaurus was used).
The 1,620 magazines of the National Pedagogics Library can be looked for by using the EMER bibiliographic data base (http://www.indire.it/archivi/emer.htm).
The approx 40,000 books belonging to the «Young People Literature» Fund can be looked for by using the paper catalogue for titles entered before 1979 and by using the LGI bibliographic data base, split into a first section (http://www.bdp.it/archivi/lg86.htm) for titles entered between 1979 and 1985 and into a second section (http://www.bdp.it/archivi/lgf2.htm) for titles entered between 1986 and 1997.
The 2,230 books belonging to the «Antiquary» fund can be looked for by using the paper catalogue.
There is no catalogue, neither a paper catalogue nor an electronic one, for the over 5,567 books relating to the «Giovanni Calò», «Alberto Simonetta», «Lucio Lombardo Radice», «Giuseppe Fanciulli», «Umberto Margiotta» funds and to the various library donations. However, a heritage inventory exists for these publications.
The Agency's Historical Archive Heritage
The National Agency for the Development of School Autonomy (previously INDIRE) keeps an important documentary heritage. The “Historical Archive” project, alive since 2002, provided for the cataloguing and valorization of the historical heritage that was inherited by the national didactic center and for the discovery and acquisition of several funds that are very interesting from the pedagogical point of view. These funds played an important role in making the Agency's historical archive one of the most important locations where to keep the sources of school and education history available in Italy today.
During 2005 and 2006, the over 4,300 exercise books and didactic works that are kept within the School Materials» Fund and the Alberto Simonetta Fund were methodically catalogued by means of the archive management software FISQED, which was developed in cooperation with the Agency's data processing center.
The documentary heritage belonging to the Agency includes:
School Papers Fund (FGS) – This fund consists of 1231 papers that were produced by primary and secondary Italian schools (printed out manually, with cyclostyle or lymograph) and of 45 foreign papers coming from Belgium, France, Poland, Rumania, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland. This happened between 1962 and 1974.
School Materials Fund (FMS) – This fund contains school exercise books and papers
Giuseppe Lombardo Radice Fund (FGLR) - The «Giuseppe Lombardo Radice» fund is the most complete collection of papers belonging to the famous pedagogician, after the fund having the same name and kept in the Didactics Historical Museum in Rome. It includes private papers, public papers, autograph manuscripts of the works, documentary materials relating to the Gentile Reform and documentary materials relating to the political activity carried out by the pedagogician from Sicily (from the Social Democratic Circle in Catania, through the Interventism, to the Fascism). Moreover, there is an important documentary collection which was promoted by Giuseppe Lombardo Radice when he was an attachee of the “Pedagogic Service” of the 8th “Armata” during the First World War and other documents relating to his education activity within his own family (drawings and exercise papers of his children Giuseppina, Laura and Lucio) and at school (exercise books of pupils from Italian and Swiss schools and original calendars of the Montesca school in Città di Castello).
Ottavio Gigli Fund (FOG) – This fund includes frequent exchanges of letters between Ottavio Gigli and Giovanni Calò, who is the funder and, for many years, the President of the National Didactic Museum, an entity from which the Agency directly depends.
Alberto Simonetta (FAS) Fund – This fund consists of a wide collection of school papers that Maria Sacerdoti (the donor's mother), a university teacher with a huge passion for teaching, collected during her life.
International Exhibition of School Papers Fund (FGS) – Collection of the materials that were provided to the National Didactic Center for Studies and Documentation in Florence in 1970 for the International Exhibition of School Papers. 1231 school papers that were produced by Italian primary and secondary schools and 45 foreign papers. These date back to 1962-1974)
Giuseppe Fanciulli Fund (FGF) – Exchange of letters, notes and autograph manuscripts of the children's writer Giuseppe Fanciulli, dating back to 1925-1948.
Arturo Linacher Fund (FAL)
Pictures Fund (picture/slide archive) – This fund collects the materials that were gathered by pedagogician Arturo Linacher, manuscript notes of Raffaello Lambruschini (1827-1872) and exchange of letters of Gino Capponi (1846-1868)
Minor funds: «National School Museum»; «Neppi Modona»; «Grumelli»; «Francesco Bettini»; «Giuseppe Caputo»; «Gianni Cavalcoli»; «Vamba»; «International Exams for Children's Drawings”; Dono «Liliana Farina»; Dono «Paolo Gizdulich»
2. Immersive area
“How to define the tracks for the change to which each institution and school is subject today? Which are the future perspectives for learning? Which role shall technologies play within this perspective? How is the school curriculum updated against the threats of the knowledge society? Which are the implications of globalization for the school world?”: the “immersive” area of the projects mainly encounters these questions and looks for an answer or aims at defining a track for replying. And this is done in an “immersive” way.
Museum didactics and “learning by experience” or “learning by doing” are frequently discussed subjects. The aim of the exhibition which we are planning in order to increase the value of the Agency's archive is to proprose immersive tracks that should accompany the visitor through the discovery of the features of historically important environments.
We thus defined a time frame for the first event and the launch of the exhibition: “From the Unity of Italy to our days. And over”. This period was chosen because we considered it as specially interesting both in view of the concurrent celebration of the 150th anniversay of the Unity of Italy and considering the importance of a reflection on the “Italian identity” in a time where “Federalism” is close to become a fact.
Within this frame, we would like to define a series of tracks which are no more than points of view, interpretation “lenses” through which you can read the space-time continuum. Here below, we also propose a series of questions that are related to each macro:
Socio-political lense track
Cultural lens track
The answer to each of the above questions shall be the result of the work of a team that is coordinted by the Agency, which shall see the maximum Italian and international field experts at work. A technical and artistic group shall try to translate the ideas and the hints of the experts into true and real scenography reconstructions and shall guarantee the technological implementation.
The scenography shall reconstruct a “significant selection” of “learing/teaching” environments and conditions within the relevant time frame and shall combine the philological strictness with emotions. Each historically defined environment shall thus be accurately reconstructed and set designed. A series of contents shall also be accessible through mobile devices (probably ipads), in the hands of single users. For example, if we exhibited a study book from the fascist area, this could be virtually flipped through by a visitor by means of a device in his hands, where a digital copy of the book would have been previously loaded. The same could happen in case of contents of various type, for example by loading simulations, reconstructed scenes and vintage videos and documents.
The above regards the reconstruction of past learning enivornments or present times. But what about the future? The last installation should in fact define the track regarding development, the vision of future school.
Actually, the project group decided not to pursue this aspect. We do not want to venture in easy future visions. For this reason, the final remark on the future of learning should be a laboratory rather than an installation. Instead of venturing a guess, we would like to establish a construction site, a place where the new technologies serving education can be touched, experimented, published, learnt together with other people, why not together with one's own colleagues, the other teachers. Thus, a place where lifelong training and learning become a fact. Much more than a museum, hence. A place serving the school, animated by education key players and by all those involved or interested in education.
School and teachers are not yet much familiar with ICT. ICT is steadily subject to change and it is often difficult to be used. As a public institution, we believe that the Agency's role consists in providing to all the opportunity to discover what is behind ICT, in particular the ICT which oriented to learning. Based on this, the exhibition shall be a public place where everybody shall go and see learning technologies, become familiar with them and learn how to use them. All the above will be for free. Considering that technologies are steadily and quickly changing, the exhibition shall steadily reflect this change: if we do not update it, after a year it would run the risk to become a musuem of technology.
This laboratory area of the exhibition should also be a place where to become familiar and experiment advanced publishing products (games, e-books, for example). This area would finally be very important for sharing and familiarizing with good education practices which would be now and again be published, showed and discussed. Based on this, it would also be possible to open an area where to investigate, discuss and reflect on tools, methods and ways to document the best practices, always within the frame of an accountable school autonomy which is able to account for one's own experiences and best education practices and which can “talk about itself to the world and to other schools”, by overcoming today's self-focus which is causing much loneliness among teachers.
The project will need teachers, trainers of trainers and other training personnel able to manage, take care of, lead learning processes within the laboratory area. The main goal is education for adults, and only after for young people.
It would be an exhibition in line with the vision and mission of the Agency, systematizing all its souls and all the souls that have kept the Agency alive over all its long history.