Gianni Rodari Museum is born in Omegna, entirely dedicated to the great childhood writer

In Omegna, Piedmont, the birthplace of Gianni Rodari, the first museum dedicated to the great childhood writer is born: the Rodari Museum in Omegna finds space in a 19th-century building and offers interactive and multimedia experiences, but not only that.

A museum dedicated to the town on Lake Orta’s most famous son is born in Omegna (Verbania): it is the Rodari Museum, a multimedia museum centered on the figure of the great children’s writer, journalist and poet Gianni Rodari (Omegna, 1920 - Rome, 1980). The institute’s itinerary, developed by curator Pino Boero, designers from auroraMeccanica who created the museum layouts, Bianchetti Architettura for the architectural design, and Studio Grand Hotel who oversaw the graphic design, leads visitors to experience new models of teaching and dissemination of intangible heritage, all based on a novel narrative itinerary on the life and poetics of Gianni Rodari. The project, strongly desired by Mayor Paolo Marchioni, was made possible by Fondazione Cariplo. The Rodari Museum officially opens its doors on October 23, on the occasion of the 101th anniversary of Gianni Rodari’s birth, in the context of a Children’s Literature Festival dedicated to him and now in its eighth edition.

The Rodari Museum is located in the heart of Omegna’s historic center and is reached by taking a small uphill road, like the Nigoglia, the stream that runs through the town (a rare example of a watercourse that flows northward in the area) and is one of the symbols of Cusio, the territory where Omegna is located. The first room of the museum is designed to welcome the public and contextualize the area: the visitor is confronted with an arched portal that recalls Omegna’s porticoes and a projection of the Nigoglia that rises in height to recall Rodari’s famous motto “La Nigoia la va in su e la legg la fouma nu.” In this first area the history of the area is told: on the one hand the significant places of Lake Orta related to Gianni Rodari’s thoughts and quotations, and on the other the creative character of Omegna told through the companies and design objects born in Omegna.

The next room is dedicated to Rodari’s life: it is an intimate room with soft lighting, characterized by a large wall projection and a low table on which are a series of objects: notebooks, movie tickets, videotapes and more. Each object is active: the visitor can touch it to activate a story. The object thus becomes an evocative symbol and a pretext for creating a romantic connection with the first-person narratives of the Omegna author. In the same room, a wall panel draws Rodari’s life line, interweaving it with historical events in Italy and around the world. The visitor continues the visit to the second floor accompanied by the projection of the river flowing upward on the wall of the staircase, as if guiding visitors along the tour route.

The first installation on the second floor, the Electric Binomial, stems from Rodari’s quote, “A single pole is not enough to produce a spark, it takes two. The single word acts only when it encounters a second one that provokes it, forces it out of the rails of habit, to discover new capacities of meaning.” The installation invites visitors to choose two words (e.g., “Mustache” and “Flower”) and make a conceptual connection by joining them together. This is done by using two colored “plugs,” two poles that, when joined together, activate a luminous electrical circuit and give rise to a graphic animation that highlights some imaginative phrases (e.g. “The flower under the mustache,” “The flower wanted a mustache,” “The mustache imitated the flower... ”).

Continuing the visit, the visitor is confronted with two large installations. On the left is a giant television(Ad Inventar storie) where one is called upon to mix environments and characters from Rodari’s most famous stories to once again create new logic and new connections with imagination. The wall becomes a show in which one can find Baron Lambert interacting with the pie in the sky or Alice cascherina in the ice cream palace with the rocking horse and a cat, depending on the audience’s chosen combinations (“Sbagliando s’inventa,” Rodari said). In front, one stops to observe the large rotary press system of Fables in Reverse: an analog mechanism with rollers, gears and ribbon reminiscent of the newspaper press. By turning the crank, the visitor will be able to move the entire machinery, the writing printed on the ribbon begins to move, but the writings are upside down, and it is impossible to tell what is written on it. The mirror present in the center of the system is the key to understanding the fable.

The last room is dedicated to one large installation: the Library of Fantasy. A real wall bookcase high to the ceiling and two lecterns arranged on the sides. On the shelves are about 300 blank books representing a Rhodesian anthology. Some of the books are illuminated, a pulsating light brings them to life and distinguishes them from the others. Touching one of them activates a videomapping over the entire bookcase and a short story dedicated to a key theme of Rodarian thought: At the Table, Postcards, Nature, Cats, Work, School, Christmas, Emigrating, Understanding Children, Peace, School, Television. The more intimate and self-contained side stations are devoted to magazines on one side (The Children’s Courier, The Pioneer, and The Better Way) and covers from around the world on the other. Here and there in the rooms, a number of disk telephones are distributed through which the visitor can listen again to Accountant Bianchi’s Fables on the Telephone. By lifting the handset and dialing the number in the phone book, one can listen to a fable in Italian or foreign languages directly from the handset.

“As Gianni Rodari pointed out in The Book of Mistakes,” say Mayor Paolo Marchioni and Culture Councillor Sara Rubinelli, “’What you don’t know is always more important than what you do know.’ The hope is that as we walk through the spaces of1 Rodari Museum, we discover or re-discover concepts and tools to strengthen our emotional and social intelligence. Because achieving ideals is not a goal for individual riders, but a team game where each of us can make our own move, small, but important.”

“Almost certainly,” Pino Boero points out, “Gianni Rodari would have been able to joke in front of the creation of a museum dedicated to him, he would have made de11 irony as when, defined by Tullio De Mauro as ’a classic,’ he went around the editorial office of Paese Sera with a tag hanging from his jacket that said, ’I am a classic.’ In our case Gianni would have written smilingly ’I am a Museum’ and perhaps he would have manifested, again with a smile, concern that he would end up in some old nineteenth-century museum display case.... None of this because the Rodari Museum tells the ’fantastic story’ of the writer, the territory and de1 historical context with the lightness of the virtual dimension, with the pleasure of the discovery of texts that come down from the shelves and images that recompose themselves; s1 will see Rodari interviewed on television and one will listen ’on the phone’ to some famous ’fables’ with the possibility, by dialing speciall numbers, to hear them recited in different languages... From Omegna to the world, then, on a journey inside a museum full of surprises.”

“The choice,” they explain from Bianchetti Architettura, “fell on a municipally owned building located in the historic core of the city, a few steps from City Hall and the house where the writer was born, in order to encourage a path that from the Museum leads the visitor to the discovery of Omegna. The building, originally from the early 19th century, has been entirely renovated to encourage the creation of unobstructed environments suitable for museum use.”

“The Rodari Museum’s museum itinerary,” auroraMeccanica points out, “has been designed to create an engaging, immersive multimedia experience that is accessible to all; designed with a focus on the children’s audience but capable of dialoguing with a trained adult audience as well. The interactive exhibits combine physical elements with digital video projections, mechanical components and procedural software mingle and intertwine with each other to design an unprecedented narrative journey about the life and poetics of Gianni Rodari. Visitors are asked to get involved in the first person to activate the stories and narrative mechanisms of the installations; without them, the museum would be meaningless, it would remain perpetually unfinished. In a museum itinerary that does not display objects but stories and experiences, the real cultural content to be safeguarded and protected is precisely the visitors and their experience of visiting. In this way the museum is transformed, it becomes a living and accessible place in which to experiment with new models of teaching and dissemination of intangible heritage, following in the fantastic footsteps of Gianni Rodari.”

“The two-color pencil or ’teacher’s pencil,’” says Studio Grand Hotel, “is the key element of the visual identity designed by Studio Grand Hotel for the Rodari Museum. Used, in the common imagination, to signal more or less serious errors, it is transformed for the occasion into the scepter ’of creative error.’ Red and blue become the primary colors of the identity chromatic palette, also readable as electrical poles, opposing forces necessary to ignite the spark of creativity.”

Gianni Rodari Museum is born in Omegna, entirely dedicated to the great childhood writer
Gianni Rodari Museum is born in Omegna, entirely dedicated to the great childhood writer

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