An Italian museum summit? Yes!

The "Italian Museum Summit," a three-day webinar designed by Michele Da Rold, an entrepreneur active in the communications industry, was held in July. Here is what she told us.

It was held last July, and I had the pleasure and honor of contributing. A project led by Michele Da Rold, entrepreneur as well as author of the book Ogni Maledetto Museo, which also takes the form of a video podcast. Michele holds a bachelor’s degree with a thesis in Classical Archaeology and a master’s degree in Conservation and Management of Cultural Heritage. He is a great connoisseur of the inner workings of museums, and often collaborates with top experts in the field. With this ambitious project, he brought to light much that was already known to be innovative in the field, but which serves this post-COVID19 museum revitalization more than ever.

The summit, which took place over three intense days, took more the form of an educational, intense and highly practical experience. The initiative was perhaps one of the first reactions from the polyphonic world of museums after the lockdown, perhaps also set off with the realization that by now, in addition to inflicting irreparable economic damage, the coronavirus has exposed (I would say uncovered in a striking way) the fragility of the museum eco-system. The idea however is about the aspiration for change that is being talked about more and more intensely and not only during the pandemic.

More than twenty experts in the field, also from different worlds and not only from the museum world, shared experiences and skills that can be put into practice, but not only. It was also an extraordinary time to learn at least in part about all that is being innovated in this field.

Three macro-themes were chosen to promote this long-awaited revival from an unprecedented culture crisis. Marketing was talked about and discussed with the now critical need to make the museum known to an increasing public as well as to those sectors that often do not frequent it. Management models and skills needed for an increasingly urgent revitalization were also discussed. Finally, innovations to be promoted, facilitated and initiated were discussed, with the full understanding that intent and commitment can make or break the post-COVID museum.

To understand more, we were helped by Michele himself....

Summit del Museo Italiano
Italian Museum Summit

Michele Da Rold
Michele Da Rold

SD. COVID-19 is known to have left a significant impact on the museum world in Italy. How do you think the Summit has contributed to a hypothetical revitalization that museums are grappling with?

MDR. In all times of crisis, history teaches that the market rewards only those realities that manage to meet their customers, anticipating needs, providing a prompt and concrete response, changing (where possible) their essence. Always. So I saw an opportunity in all this: to rethink the approach to some areas of the museum, many times neglected by most institutions, with schemes different from the traditional ones. The timing was perfect, the result was impressive: nearly a thousand participants connected online to follow more than 1361 minutes of talks, gaining new skills, developing new relationships and working dynamics. What I wanted. The survey administered post-Summit, the collaborations born afterwards and the projects in the pipeline have since confirmed the goodness of what was done.

How did the choice of contributors to the summit mature? At first glance it seems that the intent was to engage the museum industry more than anything else.

As you rightly pointed out, COVID-19 left a major impact on museums by highlighting the most fragile aspects of the foundations on which the entire system stood. So it was spontaneous for me to seek dialogue with figures who could help me plug those cracks and give birth to a new way of looking at things. Starting from the problems that needed to be solved, I thought of a training, intensive, highly practical path: from digital transformation to museum branding, from smartworking to fundraising via design, exhibit design, visual communication, ecommerce and big data. As I emphasize in my book Every Damn Museum, the institution should not be the sole element of the visitor experience, but an important part of a much more complex and sometimes infinite system. Likewise, my goal was to offer concrete facts for the entire museum industry as part of one world. Because that is how we have to learn to think if we really want to change things.

What are your thoughts on the resilience and level of innovation in the museum industry? Will there really be the restart that was discussed during the summit?

Paraphrasing Darwin, I can say that it is not the strongest or the smartest who survive, but those who are able to adapt to change. I don’t want to come across as arrogant, but I don’t think there is much to discuss about innovation: it will happen. Translated: if you don’t adapt, you die out. If you don’t innovate, you disappear. So museums and their key players need to be responsive to change by listening to young people, surrounding themselves with 20- to 30-somethings with interdisciplinary skills and the right temperament, valuing those who really want to do culture, constantly training themselves.

The Italian doc model for museum management was also discussed. Did the summit contribute to this coveted goal?

Let’s say one thing: the Summit is part of a broader training path, ranging from the Facebook discussion group ("Italian Museum Summit" to the video-podcast of “Every Damn Museum Alive,” where I analyze best practices of the cultural sector by interviewing its protagonists. Having said that, I am aware that a Summit was not needed to unveil the uniqueness of the “Italian System.” And 3 days of reflections and insights were certainly not enough to change things. However, I am proud of one thing: a different event was needed to help students, professionals and administrators focus on how to enhance this system and put the visitor at the center of everything. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I say in front of even the art itself on display at the museum. As an entrepreneur I am convinced that the moment we are living is perfect to start something interesting in the museum sector. Because one should not be afraid to do something new, even at the cost of failure every now and then.


Often, and not only in Italy, innovation is conceived on the peripheries of the museum world. There, where tradition and bureaucratic customs often play a less incisive role, projects and ideas are born that, as time passes, become more and more acceptable in the norm. The Italian museum summit also served the purpose of highlighting much of what innovative work Italy has been doing for some time yet, not just reacting to current crises. It seemed to me to be an almost taken-for-granted fact that innovation is there-yes, very much so.

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