Saturday, 27 November 2021

The priceless treasures of Magna Graecia kept at the 'Marc', with the watchful eye of the Director Malacrino

The MArRC, Reggio Museum by location but Calabrian by vocation, holds priceless treasures that time, not always a tyrant, has spared. Very important finds that the land gives back to us after millennia, giving us the opportunity to know, preserve, pass on our cultural heritage, telling the history of Calabria.

And Calabria is a particularly generous land, with a fascinating past, rich in jealously guarded memory and expertly told through a rich exhibition itinerary that allows a real journey through time through the ages, places, customs. It is the director of the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria, Carmelo Malacrino, who opens the imposing doors of this wonderful and renovated building, Palazzo Piacentini, to visitors, ideal and otherwise, who want to cross it to embark on a journey through time with us, guided from the words of the director himself, who tells us where we come from with great skill and competence, a tangible sign of his passion for this work of study, research, knowledge. An exceptional guide to get to know this wonder, located in the heart of the historic center of Reggio.

The exhibition itinerary allows you to discover the history of our Calabria, each find becomes the piece of a continuous narrative, a talking element. Each of the exhibits bears witness to many stories.

Director, how is the museum's exhibition itinerary structured?

"The museum was presented with a completely new look on April 30, 2016, after years of closure, with a continuous path on 4 levels of permanent exhibition that tell the identity of the museum itself, which is not only a Reggio museum but of the entire Calabria. This means that the visitor discovers not only the history of Reggio but of the whole region, starting from level A, which contains the oldest part: prehistory and protohistory ”.

How is the itinerary divided and what are the most significant testimonies of Calabrian prehistory?

"The whole route is divided into thematic islands, the first being the lithic industry of Casella di Maida, the Catanzaro area, the cave of the Madonna di Praia a Mare and the site of Archi. All 3 areas in a single island. Then we move on to the Neolithic period, here too with exceptional evidence: traces of the first homes of the real Calabrians, then, again, to the Copper Age and, finally, to the great section of the Bronze Age ".

For Calabria, we could say, a "golden" era ...

"Yes, a second millennium BC which saw Calabria at the forefront of all those forms of artistic expression typical of the Bronze Age. Then we go down to the first millennium BC. with the culture of the Iron Age, which brings together a selection of some of the most important finds of Calabrian proto-history. From those of the province of Cosenza to the contexts of Canale Ianchina, then of the Locrese area, up to the eighth century BC. which is the moment in which the arrival of the Greeks completely changes the culture of this territory. This first contamination, between indigenous culture and the cultural heritage of the Greeks, marks the passage to the next level ".

Level B?

"Exactly. This is the most spectacular level. It is all dedicated to two exhibition sections: the great cities of Greek Calabria, starting with the Achaean colonies of Sybaris and Crotone, side by side because they have a history with deep ties, up to 510 BC. which led to the destruction of Sibari by Crotone. Then there are all the other Greek cities of Calabria such as Caulonia, Locri with its sub-colonies such as Medma, Hipponion and Metauros, and here we start with the large section dedicated to sanctuaries. A first general island on the composition and meaning of the sanctuaries in the Greek cities and, then, in succession, the main Greek sanctuaries of Calabria, starting from the sanctuary of Marasà in Locri, passing through that of the Marafioti house, the sanctuary of the Passoliera in Caulonia, the sanctuary of Apollo Aleo in Cirò Marina, of Persephone at Mannella in Locri, the Sanctuaries of Hipponion, the sanctuaries of Medma and, finally, some sanctuaries such as that of Imbelli. We are in Campora San Giovanni and the level ends by returning to Locri with the sanctuary of Grotta Caruso ”.

And here we have something new, right?

"Oh yeah! We have moved the Marafioti Knight from its previous location, exposing it in a much more beneficial position. Now it welcomes the visitor upon his arrival at level B ”.

And then Level C dedicated to thematic aspects?

“It starts with poetry, music and theater and continues with homes and domestic and artisanal activities, the necropolis, up to the Italic cultures of Calabria in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Starting from the north we have Lucani, Bretti and Mamertini ”.

Last but not least, level D ...

“That is the history of Reggio! A micro-history within the broader history, again according to a chronological and then thematic path. It starts from the proto-history of this territory; I think of the site of Calanna, which returned very important materials, and then went through all the main phases of the history of Reggio: the foundation of the city, the inhabited area in the Hellenistic period, the sanctuaries, the necropolises and the entire phase of the Roman age very much characterized it. There too, is something new because this section concludes with the mosaic with a scene of athletes that was exhibited for the first time with the rearrangement of the museum. All this, like a precious casket, surrounds the masterpieces of the National Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria: the Riace Bronzes and the Porticello Bronzes ”.

Our priceless Bronzes, which the whole world envies, symbol of Reggio and very rare testimony of intact statues of the 5th century BC. preserved in Italy.

"The intact bronze testimonies dating back to this era are few and preserved abroad such as the Zeus of Cape Artemisio, the Auriga of Delphi, large statues but all kept outside Italy".

The Bronzes are very famous and certainly need no introduction but I would like to hear a few words from you about it.

"They were found in August ‘72, in the waters off the Ionian coasts, so in recent times and in an absolutely sudden way. These circumstances have undoubtedly contributed to making them one of the most famous of all bronze statues. The mystery that surrounds them is certainly complicit in the success of these two wonderful specimens that leave visitors speechless. I tell you that not  few were moved by observing them, seized by strong emotion, coming from Australia or the United States just to admire them ".

Here, let's talk about this mystery ...

“The mystery, next to perfection, is what characterizes them most. From the moment of their discovery, all the great scholars of ancient statuary have measured themselves on this issue. Two masterpieces that suddenly enter scientific research, academic culture, have attracted the attention of all the major scholars and each one has proposed its own theory regarding the artists who made them, with regard to context and identification. . I don't feel like supporting one or the other theory. Yes, I must admit that there is a lot of attraction in their mystery, the fact that they are so beautiful, so suggestive ... The mystery is part of the Riace Bronzes ".

But as you have just told us, the MArRC is not only Riace Bronzes.

"Certainly the bronzes are among the best known works in the world, but I am pleased to record the appreciation of the whole museum by visitors".

Let's talk about young people, what is their approach to culture and how to bring them closer to the museum world?

“There are many initiatives, not only to get them to come to the museum but above all to get them back. We have promoted proposals dedicated to the little ones. Let's start from scratch, let's not forget that in 2017 the museum was largely closed ”.

A few examples?

"We promoted family days at the museum and gave life to the Enigmarc. It is our elaboration, with the creation of a series of games that can be played by interacting with the exhibits in the window. The solutions of the various games are to be found within them. Seeing these children moving around the museum's exhibition path was of great satisfaction, as well as seeing parents playing with their children, all of this gives meaning to these initiatives. In addition, this year, we have created an entire educational offer divided by age with many thematic initiatives on the various aspects of the museum. It starts from the game "color the ancient", dedicated to preschool children, who can color the drawings of the finds, up to more challenging games. It is a cultural challenge and we must work on children but also on parents. We start with families to make children develop love for culture ".

So many beautiful ideas, certainly the right keys have been touched to approach and excite the youngest.

“We were positively surprised by the success of some initiatives, such as the Halloween one, which saw the participation of about 230 children with their families. I must say it was a great challenge ”.

As we have repeatedly reiterated, the territory is very rich in testimonies of the past. A strip of the great Hellenistic necropolis was discovered during the construction of the building, right?

"On May 30, 1932, the first stone was laid for the construction of the building, it was immediately clear that it was an area of ​​an archaeological nature. Continuing with the excavations for the construction of the foundations, the edge of a large necropolis of the Hellenistic period was brought to light: the northern necropolis. The city walls passed right next to it and a good part of that necropolis that was located within the perimeter of the museum has been destroyed. Inside the  museum there are displays of the funerary objects of those burials ".

Has the whole necropolis been lost?

"No. The excavation was expanded to the north, that part of the necropolis was saved. In the months preceding the opening of the museum, my commitment was to set up that area, which was never made open to visitors, freeing it from the material that had accumulated over the years. We have valued it a lot. The area is visited with the support of Touring Club volunteers ".

A nice solution that involves the territory?

“The link with the territory is a fundamental element. In recent years the museum has become an inclusive place for all the cultures of the territory which has responded enthusiastically, just think of the numerous cultural partners such as the Aspromonte National Park, the Pythagoras Planetarium, the Cilea conservatory, and associations such as the International Center Writers of Calabria, the Touring Club. A few days ago the synergistic project with the Department of Architecture of the Mediterranean University was added to the agreements already stipulated with other Italian and foreign universities to do research on the museum's collections. The message is that together we can do a lot ”.

Visitors increase ...

“They are rewarding us! From the approximately 163,000 visitors in 2015, we have reached over 227,000. Important numbers that attract not only tourists but also members of the community of the territory. We involved Sicily, Messina, precisely to represent the culture of the strait area that unites and does not divide. The Zancle and Reghion exhibition, for example, with materials from Reggio and Messina in the same windows that give the dimension of how culture, in ancient times, was the same ".

Protection of roots, enhancement of memory, dissemination of culture, the museum is this but also much more! Laboratory activities for example ...

“The museum is not just exhibition spaces. The museum's main function is the conservation and management of the archaeological and cultural heritage. A continuous reordering of collections that are passed on to the restoration laboratory. A work of documentation and reporting of assets. Finds that are studied and then presented to the public in temporary exhibitions, often alongside artefacts on permanent display which, taken from their windows, tell other stories in different thematic narratives “.