Anima mundi: the design of a temporary missionary ethnological exhibition

Giulia Sodano
Department of Industrial Engineering University of Naples “Federico II” Naples.

Vittoria Vaccaro:
Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, Pisa, Italy.

The power of museum architecture and exhibition design in fulfilling the social mission of the museum when dealing with conflict is significant. Museums indeed serve as important cultural institutions that can play a crucial role in promoting understanding, dialogue, and healing in times of conflict. In the last 30 years we have witnessed a renewed focus on ethnological museums, and the ways in which these specific institutions display and conceptualize the contradictions lying at the core of their collections. Among this kind of problematic spaces of cultures exhibition emerge the missionary ethnological museums which still are stimulating laboratories to reflect on how architecture, design, and museum curatorship can virtuously interact to deal with the colonial legacies, power relations and violence historically perpetrated for the collecting of the manufacts. Hence some questions that we would like to address: how do museum staff have to work with collections that were created in colonial-missionary context? How can architecture contribute to the construction of a space for social reflection of the past and global connection for the future? As part of our investigation, we would like to propose a temporary exhibition with one of the most important missionary collections in the world,  the one of the Vatican Ethnological Museum. This temporary missionary ethnological exhibition will be hosted within the halls of the same museum and can become catalysts for reconciliation processes. A museum exhibition designed by those who possess the historical and emotional load of the exhibited works, often linked to dramatic historical events. They can facilitate the expression of collective trauma, promote understanding and empathy, and contribute to the building of resilient communities. “Anima mundi” can amplify marginalized voices, uncover hidden histories, and challenge societal norms, can inspire critical thinking, social activism, and the pursuit of justice. Finally, the lighting design will also be determined to ensure that everyone can enjoy the exhibition.

Lightning, exhibition, missionary ethnological museum, conflict.

Giulia Sodano is an architect. She is a PhD student  in Industrial Engineering at the University of Naples “Federico II”. Her research topics are connected with the innovative solution of lighting design, the integration of daylight and electric light and the circadian implications of light on human life. In the coming months she will begin her internship with the Hera Luce company. She received her master’s degree Architecture 5UE at University of Naples Federico II in July 2020 with a thesis in lighting technology. The thesis project had the aim of analyzing the existing lighting of the Pausilypon archaeological park and designing a new one that would satisfy the safety requirements by highlighting the wonders of the place. She won the  “IL MUSEO CHE VERRÀ – comunità | ricerca | innovazione” prize organized by ICOM Italy. Moreover, she is very attentive to climate problems and for this reason she is part of an environmental association that deals with environmental education and the circular economy.   

Vittoria Vaccaro is an PhD student in History at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. As an historian with a background in Art History, she is strongly interested in cultural history, in the global circulation of objects and to aspects related to their musealization. Her research topic focuses on the cultural interactions between China and Europe in the 17th century, analyzing in particular the case of a Jesuit missionary named Nicolas Trigault, his role as a traveling agent for the Company of Jesus and its pioneering influence on the spread of interest in foreign fashions and cultures. Besides, she has previously worked in national and international art galleries, such as the Berlin-based Galerie Rolando Anselmi, developing theoretical and practical skills related to projecting exhibitions and museum’s spaces curatorship.