Friday, September 05, 2008

Funding culture in Italy

The New York Times has an excellent article summarizing a range of reactions to the decision of the Berlusconi government to allocate only 0.28% of its budget to the Ministry of Culture, which oversees, among other things, the maintenance and development of museums, as well as a sizable fraction of archaeological research in Italy. That's for all archaeology in Italy... with its wealth of Roman and other Classical cultures, I shudder to think how little of even that 0.28% will go to prehistory.

This opening excerpt, about the Pigorini Museum (one of the most important ones in Italy for ethnography and prehistory) wrenched my heart:

On some days visitors to the Luigi Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography here may find its director in the front booth handing out entrance tickets. It’s not a meet-and-greet situation: The museum is chronically understaffed.

In recent weeks museumgoers have tended to speed past the glass-encased artifacts from Oceania and Asia or skim Homo’s evolution to sapiens. They can’t afford to tarry. The Pigorini has no money for air-conditioning, and the Roman sun is merciless.

“We barely have enough money to keep the lights on, or pay for a cleaning staff,” said Vito Lattanzi, director of educational services and of the Mediterranean collections at the museum, which is also a research institute. The custodial staff has been pared down to 11 from 30. Ten years ago there were eight to a shift; now there are four, and in most cases two are volunteers.

The article also does a very good job exploring the reasons behind the disinterest in private donation to support much cultural research in the peninsula, and the tensions about the perception of the need for private funding within the cultural world. Definitely worth a thorough read.


Maju said...

It is very sad. Much more for a country with such a rich archaaeology, history and art as Italy.

And it is obviously not a problem of overall poverty, because Italy is a rich country nowadays. There is no excuse for that attitude.

Guess that Paglicci cave will fall down before the indifference of the Italian goverment, right?

Julien Riel-Salvatore said...

It's a sad situation indeed - I heard very little about what was happening at Paglicci when I was there this summer, so I have no update on that, unfortunately.