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Prototyped Systems  for the Musealization and Protection of Archaeological Excavation
  • Annalucia D'Erchia,
  • Enrico De Angelis
Annalucia D'Erchia
Dipartimento ABC. Politecnico di Milano

Corresponding Author:annalucia.derchia@polimi.it

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Enrico De Angelis
Politecnico di Milano
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A renewed sensibility towards the ancient has brought to the growth, accelerated in the last forty years, of the debate on the future of the past.   A prototype, a theoretical model, before to be practical, of an exhibition system imagined for the place of archaeology, through the use of archeological yard - already experienced with convincing results in restoration - and the protection during the digging activity is the possible translation of a dialogue between the archaeology, the architecture and the engineering.  The unexpected and sudden variations, which archeological research is susceptible, have led to the identification, in the completed excavation of a Roman Domus in Aquileia, Fondo ex Cossar, of a possible chance to retrace ex-post a project hypothesis that could become an example for future excavations. The interdisciplinarity in the care and presentation and dissemination of our past remains is the main character in the conservation of matter and in the preservation of places’ memory.   The choice in the election of archaeological excavation as a monument and a document is a reflection on the pedagogical and regenerative potential that contemporary architectural intervention could have during the process of the discovery of the ancient.


Archeological excavation; musealization; protection; Agrigento; Aquileia      


The reflection is a process of maturation, association and reasoning. [...] His greater capacity (is) to accept the data and to uncover the possibilities.\cite{espuelas2008vuoto}
The reflection does not want to be a sickle but wants to be seed [1]. 
In an analogical way, the research presented here is not intended to be a peremptory and conclusive solution to a specific problem. It wants to be a prototype, in the deepest and widest sense in its meaning; the prototype not only as “first of its kind” practically built, but as a reasoning, a theoretical model, verified on case studies needed for the generalization but not sufficient in the generalization. Only through a consolidated theoretical awareness is possible to imagine also the “practical” aspect of any “object”. This theoretical awareness should not lose sight of the conceptual connections, the network of ties that make the tissue of knowledge complex and vital.


“The collective memory and its scientific form, the history, are applied to two types of materials: the documents and monuments. In fact,  what survives is not the complexity of what has existed in the past, but a choice made by both forces working in the temporal evolution of the world and of the humanity, and by those who are delegated to the study of the past and the times past […] These memory materials can be presented under two main forms: monuments, heritage of the past, and documents, choice of the historian.” \cite{le1978voce}
This sentence introduces the heading of document | monument, curated by Jaques Le Goff, in the Einaudi Encyclopedia, published between 1974 e 1984 in 14 volumes.      
“Not a summa […] nor a digest of knowledge. Rather, it is, perhaps, not unrealistic to aim at a sort of critical identification of the crossroad of the various issues, believing these moments are able to form a coherent speech - not final - in development, animator of the current knowledge. […] An Encyclopedia that is not deliberately concerned [...] with all that is the notion of knowing, and, instead, focus its attention on the backbone and important elements of cultural discourse that has been organizing in the last half of the century […]” [2].  The purpose is therefore not to tell “the perfect stability of knowledge, intellectual certainty, the conviction that a peak has been reached”, but “of a knowledge that changes, in a crisis, as commonly said, of a culture that is sought, of a society that sees new values emerging.”\cite{Enciclopedia}
It seems coherent, in analogy to this speech, to imagine the way in which the subject of the introduced research, the archaeological excavation, as one of the many declinations that this report contains and which can manifest itself. The first derivative, a reasoning that has as a substrate the historically changeable relationship Le Goff cleverly retraces [3]. Following this speech, continuously developing by its nature, but starting from the beginning, we will recognize already in the archaeological excavation, a place bearer of memory that is waiting to be told and shown, and also shared, not in its stability, but in its becoming. 

State of the art

The new above the ancient

It is the same etymology of the two terms to suggest, as if it were an instruction manual, the attitude to be adopted towards the past, the distant past, an archaeological one.  The Monument underlies a triptych of behaviors: ammonire (to admonish) - moneoricordare (to remember) - meminimostrare (to show) - monstro. They are three different worlds that coexist and contribute to the statement of the message that the monument itself becomes bearer. The Document, instead, refers to insegnarecomunicare (to teach, to communicate) - docere.   Usually, this gradual process of riconoscimento, memoria e racconto (recognition, memory and narrative) of archaeological heritage occurs when the excavation is completed [4], when, in a territorial scope, the important archaeological evidence and the presence of historical, landscaping and environmental values are recognized. In that case we choose to define its borders and equipping the area as an open-air museum [5].   The "architectural structures", that the archaeological excavations return us could be protected, and the "artifacts", when they are left in their discovery context, in situ musealised [6].
“The musealization is an overcoming of the traditional image of the museum […]. It is a bit the opposite of what usually happens, no longer the existing structures go to the museum, but the museum is going to the existing structures, particularly to the archaeological sites. […]Continuing to  worry about and take care of two things for which the museum worries and occupies: to conserve, but at the same time using the asset as a tool for the dissemination of culture”. [7] \cite{indrio1988siti}
These words by Franco Minissi introduced the second day of the seminary "I siti archeologici. Un problema di musealizzazione all’aperto" , Roma 1988, one of those few and often isolated moments of confrontation on the theme of the future of the past [8]. Minissi had shaped and had translated for the first time in 1957 - the covering systems of the "architectural structures" and the "artifacts" of Villa del Casale in Piazza Armerina [9] - the principles sustained in 1964 by Carta di Venezia (Carta del Restauro). It was promoted, among others, by Cesare Brandi, then director of the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro [10].  Unfortunately, the figure of Minissi is always associated with the unhappy Sicilian season - the  Piazza Armerina covering structures, the fortificazioni di Gela protections, the cavea reconstruction of Greek Theatre di Eraclea Minoa.
All these interventions, for a variety of reasons - from poor maintenance to lack of knowledge of the effects of new materials on the ancient - have had little luck.  Less well-known, but of great interest, are all the other projects Minissi deals with. Continuing to reflect on the themes of museography and museology, which are turn down in the archaeological discipline, Minissi got in line and explained those recurring and typical of archaeological sites interventions principles that we could call “technical”. They are a way to work and are confirmed, consistently, in his professional and didactic activity.
The new above the ancient at first must be reversible "and this for at least four basic reasons:
-    the possibility of restoration in the pre-operative condition;
-    the clear recognition of the intervention and its dating;
-    the ease of making changes; 
-    the possibility of dissociation of the pre-existence images from the additions. 
This task is achievable only through the possession of a wealth of technical and technological knowledge constantly updated, of course, associated with critical sensibility and awareness of who deals with this type of operation.”\cite{minissi1988conservazione} [11]

From the site to the excavation: the Franco Minissi lesson in the contemporary musealization

The Minissi lesson, first of all, a theoretical one and then a practical one, places itself in a strategic position with respect to the cultural panorama and the next debate. As has already been stated, despite being limited the autonomy in the literature of the subject at issue, if we believe, as we believe, the project as research, the experiences in the musealization and protection of archaeological sites, in recent years, have seen an overactive experimentation. In them we could recognize the principles of which Minissi is the forerunner.
A first task of identifying and recognition of these interventions has allowed me the construction of a first gallery, an updated atlas of possible ways in the interpretation of the delicate relationship between architecture and archaeology.
It has been chosen to synthesize this process, in this context, intentionally and consciously, shrinking the temporal distance between the root, Minissi’s experience, and the closest and most contemporary experiences, which are its extreme derivatives. This near-forced closeness becomes a metaphor for this acceleration.
There are multiple interpretations related to different trends. One of them concerns the evoking in volumes starting from the position of architectural structures. This is the attitude of Peter Zumthor in Chur, João Louis Carrillho de Graça and João Gomes da Silva in Praca Nova, Dorothee Eyck e Florian Oswald in Eisenberg, a very close way to the experience of Piazza Armerina. A different approach is that of Moneo in Merida, of Arriola and Fiol in Saint Boi de Llobregat, of Tortelli - Frassoni in Brescia and Aquieia, of Paredes - Pedrosa in Pedrosa de la Vega, where the reading of the spaces and the layering of history is entrusted to the paths of different levels, which stand almost as a suggestion the layer of archeology from the contemporary visitor layer.
Another central theme is the “points of view”. Also in these case, there are different translations. On the one hand is the planned path that controls the understanding of space (Pikionis in Athens); otherwise, it is the design of a device that explains the site (Marte.Marte in Brederis) or helps us in understanding from a different point of view. Some virtuous examples are, once again, the project by Franco Minissi (the structure for the Passo di Corvo 1985-86 or the project of the Prehistoric Museum in Cassano Ionico 1985), but also the project by Barbara Scher and Arnold Bodner in Aguntum a stable observation tower reminiscent of insights and experiences of Maria Reiche in reading and comprehension, so musealization, of the Nazca lines.
The collection of examples gathered, it can not be said over and will continuously be read and interpreted, has led to the recognition of the common attitudes and define recurring principles that are the basis of building a program: the getting into,  the getting through, the covering, the knowing and understanding through the seeing. (Fig.1)