Social Fabrics

The regional project “SOCIAL fabrics” (SOCIal Learning, Museum installations, Languages, Interactions) coordinated by the University for Foreigners of Siena began in spring 2020. Its objective is to design interactive virtual paths with a strong social calling, focusing on the best use of the Museo del Tessuto (Textile Museum) in Prato mainly by adult visitors who speak Italian as a second language, in particular those belonging to the communities most present in the area around Prato (Chinese, Albanian, Maghreb and Pakistani).

The project also includes a phase of socio-cultural investigation to understand why the city’s cultural/museum heritage is used so rarely, and more specifically the motives behind the identified audience’s lack of participation in the activities and initiatives proposed by the Museum. The goal of the research project is to create a use model of the museum spaces which, with the necessary changes in content, can be replicated by other operators in the Tuscan and national cultural chain.

The project has been co-financed by Regione Toscana, Siena Italtech-Tecnologie per lo sviluppo linguistico and Italy China Foundation as part of the Cultures and Languages for Contemporaneity project.

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The project included the following actions in 2021:

1. Involvement of schools in Prato, actively engaging students as a privileged channel for involving adults in the various communities.

40 hours of PCTO (Pathway for Cross-cutting Skills and Orientation)

with 23 students from three secondary schools in Prato (Livi Secondary School, Copernico Secondary School, Gramsci Keynes Upper State Institution). After a week of lessons (study of the museum’s collections/history, in-depth study of linguistic mediation, focus on the social communication of museums), the students created a digital product that presented the Museum or part of its permanent collection to their peers using multiple languages and trying to highlight testimonies/memories of their community of origin. At the end of the two weeks, the students presented their work to their families and tutors, also personally visiting our exhibition spaces with their relatives.

42 hours of educational courses

with seven classes of Cesare Guasti Primary School of the Marco Polo Institute in Prato. The project involved 132 students from two different grades, with three, two-hour sessions for each class in order to create a stop motion video with the theme Fabric/Linguistic Inclusion. Their creations will be presented at the end of the project.

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12 hours of educational courses

with two classes of the Lower Secondary School of the Marco Polo Institute in Prato. The students created a Digital Book inventing a story with the clothes and accessories of the communities to which they belong.

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2. Involvement of representatives of the Chinese, Albanian, Maghreb and Pakistani communities to engage the adult public in educational activities to activate and support their reasons for visiting the Museum, encouraging the development of language skills and intercultural awareness.

Between November and December, meetings were organised with the Chinese and Albanian community with visits to the exhibition Turandot and the Fantastic East of Giacomo Puccini, Chini and Caramba with some exhibits of the Chini collection belonging to the Museum of Anthropology. A museum educator intermediated, asking participants to recount a memory or an experience associated with the object under consideration.

To celebrate their national holiday, the Albanian community brought their traditional costumes to the Museum, describing their culture with anecdotes or personal experiences in an informal atmosphere. During the meeting, the participants – mostly women – commented on the success of the event at the end of the experience, saying: “We felt a bit as if we were home“.

The project with the University for Foreigners of Siena will end in April 2022, with the aim of continuing the collaboration and developing new actions with the communities.

To celebrate a moment of collective restitution, a facilitated path will be presented in June for the people of the communities involved. A QR code will allow guests to visit the museum independently, with the possibility of listening to audio in Italian or in their own language.