In the Roman year 725 (ad urbe condita ) Agrippa built a viaduct for the pure fresh waters originating in Campo Luculliano. According to legend his discovery was due to a virgin who was supposed to have led the thirsty Roman soldiers there. It is more likely that the " virgin" was none other than the " virga ", the well-known dowsing rod made of witch-elm which the water diviners used to search for water. It seems that in the year 538 the viaduct was destroyed by Vitige's warring Goths. The water that overflowed formed a big pond in Campo Luculliano to which the thirsty citizens had to go for water in order to survive. Later on an association of water-sellers was formed. They were a group of courageous men, that, in spite of the many dangers all around, went to and fro from the pond on donkeys laden with leather bags and little barrels filled with water. One of these men was immortalized in Via Lata, at the "Porter's Fountain". The hero of this legend has now become the symbol of a new reality, the Museo del Corso. This museum is seen as harbinger, spreading the culture of art by means of new technological communications. The starting point of this project has been the very connection between mythological reality and virtual reality. The Ente Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Roma has devolved part of its investment funds to it. Professor Emmanuele Emanuele, president of the Foundation, has been its most enthusiastic supporter.
This particular museum aims at going beyond special limits . it intends to bring together in one area the traditional art exhibition and those of young up-coming talents. In this way the esthetical sensibility can come face to face with tradition. On the other hand, where electronic research is concerned, there is the same confrontation in the " Virtual Theatre" , where virtual spaces have been created. Settings that have been lost or which are no longer accessible, have been reconstructed. With the help of a Cyber cafe, one can enjoy new trends and follow up on new artistic research, which otherwise would be too far away. In fact , the innovation of the Museo del Corso is in the way it applies the multimedial technologies, allowing one to come in contact with our artistic patrimony. In this Virtual Theatre it is possible to set up virtual exhibitions as well as taking exciting journies back in time. One can visit places and monuments very far away which existed many centuries ago.
Professor Emmanuele Emanuele how did this idea come about ?
It came about like most of the ideas I have had, which I have gone on to put into practice. The unifying element is the knowledge I posses on the subject at hand. I have had the very good fortune, ever since I was quite young, to have travelled a great deal, not only for pleasure but also for personal enrichment. I am a firm believer In the interconnection of civilizations and in the need for dialogue between them. I am also convinced that there is a kind of osmosis between different ethnic groups. I have always been able to visualize and understand what is going on in other countries, what our small European region, this a little province of Europe called Italy, could import. I could tell you of my experience in the world of finance, at university, in national health, in voluntary organizations, but it would knot be relevant to the task at hand. Let uas go back to what we were speaking about. I have always realized how difficult it is for students to travel, even how difficult it is for ordinary people. One has to have quite a lot of money in order to see the wonders of the world. To this must be added a marked appreciation or art. But above all I understand how hard it is to get the opportunity to do so in a context enabling one truly to acquire culture. The world is advancing ever so quickly and globalisation is almost a reality. Cybernetics are now a concrete part of our existence and we are all trying to adapt to this. Of course the young are more adaptable. Nevertheless we are all witnesses to this changing era. Today, man is prospectively different from what he was in the past. Engineering has created new technologies making a great difference in solar years between man as discoverer of the wheel and man today. The relationship has changed. A lot more time has passes and less progress made in comparison to when man began to fly and man of today. Technology has sky-rocketed over this period. In other words, over the last hundred years more progress has been made than over the past thousand. The rapidity with which this cultural change as come about is shocking. One changing concept it to use culture as a means to reduce social conflicts. Dialogue is also considered a way to raise the social level of the collectively. This means that culture must be approached in a new way. Maybe my concepts have been influenced by my ambitious ideas, but maybe not. Maybe my followers have given me a reply. However, as I said, what I wanted was to be able to be in instant contact with all the museums of the world. I would like every citizen to have the possibility of entering our museum and of seeing , for example, the patrimony of the Prado, all of the works of Picasso, of Braque, etc.
Could you give a more concrete example ?
I am working on a project which most probably will be realized next year. It will be an exhibition of Italian art of the 17th and 18th centuries in Russia. Many of the works that are in the Pushkin Museum can be transported, but many cannot be moved. So we shall send Info byte to multimedialize them. In this way they will be brought here as well. What of Priam and the treasures of Troy? All this can be worked out in the future. I want to create the possibility of an instant connection with the museums this world over. This is a revolutionary project that can easily go along with the traditional kind of museums, which abound in Italy. Unfortunately the culture they exhibit is static and inert. I have decided to make this a multiple-use cultural centre in which the traditional forms of art exhibits are placed side by side of the multimedial ones. One room will be used for projection and another room will be devoted to the use of a Cyber cafe. The WWW will connect all the museums together. Should these foreign museums be unwilling to do so, then their entire patrimony could be multimedialized. That is what the project is about. We also want to exhibit the works of young artists on the lower level which means that part of the museum will be showing contemporary artists. Here in Rome we cannot have only the traditional form of art, the culture of our golden classical age. Young people have no place to show their works. I want to create a permanent show room for young contemporary artists.
Would you like to link all the museums of the world through the WWW ?
I would be satisfied to link all the European museums through the WWW.
Have you been the sole author of these ideas ?
Yes indeed. One fine day I was made president of this association, the old Cassa di Risparmio di Roma , which legally became the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Roma. I realized that until a short time ago their philanthropic interests were scattered here and there. Once the bank had paid its taxes and had chosen the investments to make , the money was given to various associations that had nothing in common. Therefore I saw the necessity of having an organized project which could be of great value to the city of Rome and of interest to all. I thought of four possible investments: in culture, in education, in national health, in technological research. As far as culture is concerned, I thought of embarking on a new process instead of just being a usual museum sponsor of which there are already so many! I wanted to approach culture from a different angle. And this is precisely what I have explained to you.
This in effect could be called a real kind of patronage ?
Someone may call it that.
Is this museum in the forefront on an international level ?
Indeed it is. We are an avant-garde museum being the only national multimedial one. In Europe we are among the top six, so much so that we have now become a part of the great prokect called MOSAIC (Museums Over States And Virtual Culture) which should be a network of multimedial museums. We are the first example in Italy.
Who have been the professionals working on this project ?
Some of the members of the Foundation are on the board of directors. We also have some of the most prestigious names in Italian and foreign culture on the committee. Where multimedia is involved, Info byte collaborates. With us.
What is the cost ?
On the whole we have not spent too much. This centre actually belonged to the Banc a di Roma already. It is part of our patrimony. It was easier to get the project going as we owned the building in which the museum was to be housed. Our first exhibition was of our beautiful Italian art and therefore it was not expensive. Neither di we have to spend a lot on the conversion. The computers cost the most, about two million dollars.
Do you have any ideas about other projects for culture, technology or national health? Can they be realized in the near future or are they long-term projects ?
I should like the University of Rome to come forth with some ideas . The optimum is to be constantly in touch. If someone has a new idea, new stimuli, we are here, ready to listen to them. This project has come about because I have voluntarily contributed of my time. I do not have , however, sufficient knowledge of Cybernetics to develop it further.
In order to reduce this gap we must proceed in our creation and only the University can help us. It is a cultural centre , a laboratory for studies and research. I am a firm believer that the University itself can back us so that we can maintain our position. I am ready to promote whatever can be use in broadening and spreading our culture. But the city of Rome and individual citizens must make and effort. My hope is that this centre may become a new and revolutionary cultural centre, and entirely new world. Now I certainly do not want to be emphatic nor to exaggerate, but I should like the museum to be a harbinger of this era of transition. One day it would be a fine thing indeed were this centre to be remembered as the very first observatory, the first centre which in some way tried to understand how Cybernetics would be the next cultural era, the instrument for the future par excellence. At the moment what I am saying may sound presumptuous or excessive. Nonetheless it is a new way to see art and how it will be part of the new era to come. It is for this same reason that I wanted young artists to be part of the plans for the museum. These young people will be the transhipment artists of our times, the guardians of a culture which passes from one age to the next. They will bring us into outer space in order that our traditional culture be side by side of the revolutionary culture. That means continuity. It is a laboratory in abolition and our young artists will maintain the vital nourishment which our culture requires. Here, the University could give the final seal to it all. May I remind you that I am planning to have a three year programme for this museum which will house a series of revolutionary exhibitions; one of the sculptors of the 20th century , another of all the famous places visited by the popes. These are just a few ideas I have for the future. We must find a way to put them into practice. The space is available. We also have " infinite " space, our virtual reality. All our activities may become real. It is common sense and our logic which will bring them together.
Please tell me something about the educational side of the question. I understand that students of all ages can come to visit the museum but is the Foundation interested in promoting educational projects ?
Up until now this has not been included. But the Foundation had its duties to education. If this can tie in with our educational project, all the better.
The Museo del Corso starts as traditional type of museum. It then goes on to become one of the " Smart Museums " where the visitor is invited to be an active participant. With his virtual helmet on, he can become part of another reality, interacting with it as he pleases. He can travel, culturally speaking, to all the many WWW museum sites at his disposal. Now for the first time in Italy a pass is available which gives access to the important MOSAIC project. The aim of MOSAIC is to enlarge one's acquaintance with the European cultural patrimony. Another aim is to spread this knowledge and to promote the exchange between cultural technicians. This can be done through multimedia telecommunications applied to museums, art galleries, architectural sites, and other artistic categories. Both museums and galleries in Europe abound in cultural treasures. However much of this patrimony is neither available to students nor to the ordinary public. There is a lack of space where the works can be shown. The actual trips are costly. That is why the WWW could be a new way of teaching art, a gigantic step ahead in the field of informatic.