An invisible glasscase for the smallest museum in the world

30 Jul 2011

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Castiglioncello is changing look thanks to Goppion’s engineering-oriented contribution and reopens to the public on July 30th

Amidst the magic landscape of Punta Righini, a rocky spur jutting out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Castiglioncello is a doorway that is opening again onto the civilisation of the Etruscans. Immersed in the typical Mediterranean countryside that so inspired the Macchiaioli artists, it lies in a spot that has so often popped up in the history books, starting off from the discovery here of an Etruscan necropolis with excavations, especially those between 1903 and 1910, and then right up to 1997, unearthing over 350 tombs in the area.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Castiglioncello is a small building, a treasure chest on a hill with the sea as a background. It was purposefully created to house the approximately 1200 exhibits that were part of the objects from the tombs of the necropolis. In 1910, the then Superintendent for Etruscan Antiquities, Luigi Adriano Milani, wanted to have it built in the form of a funeral urn with decorative motifs inspired by the architectural style of Etruscan temples. After a slow decline it was closed in 1972. Lying forgotten until 2001, it has recently been the object of painstaking restoration work carried out by the Tuscan Superintendency for Archaeology and the town council of Rosignano Marittimo. It reopens on July 30th.

The Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Castiglioncello, as the director, Edina Regoli, explains, is «one of the few examples of a decentralised museum, which was the spirit of Milani’s original idea. The work to be carried out was undertaken by exceptionally reliable firms - Ms Regoli continues – so that the building would reflect this spirit. A spirit that was all about encouraging the people living in the area to assume a sense of identity and, at the same time, representing for the area an attraction for cultivated and intelligent tourism. All of this was carried out by employing new technologies - advanced systems of ventilation and preservation – considering that there are many exhibits in bronze and metal, for the preservation of which it is of fundamental importance to guarantee a special micro-climate».

Museum Engineering of Milan undertook the museum project and suggested an array of innovative elements, such as the idea of considering the building and the exhibits as a non-separable single whole. «In order to create such a situation we have striven to imagine the “distance” that normally separates the visitor and the object in a different way. Glass case is the name of this new interpretation. The position of the glass, a physical limitation between object and subject, had to be reconsidered», the architect, Luca Schiavoni, explains. He turned to Goppion for the development of a glass case that would be one of its kind.

A membrane of airtight glass has been created by the Goppion Laboratorio Museotecnico, after having abandoned the idea of box-shaped cases. Just like a second skin, the glass “expands” around the whole internal perimeter, along the walls equipped with shelving and covering the ceiling, too. Like an epithelial material, it protects objects placed on the shelves and the surfaces of the walls, maintaining the micro-climate of the exhibition area inside parametres of pre-established relative humidity. Thanks to its perfect transparency, the glass enables the viewer to admire the collection and enables the building’s architectural features to be seen.

The work being carried out at Castiglioncello, a few months after work at the Museo Archeologico di Artimino at Carmignano and at Milan’s Civico Museo Archeologico, confirms Goppion’s role as the number one company in the fields of preventive conservation, exploitation and protection of our archaeological, artistic and historical heritage.