Museums Conservation Italy

On shaky ground?

New €4m project to safeguard Italy's museums from earthquakes

Rome's Villa d'Este and its myriad fountains is on the list of museums that will be studied for seismic stability

The ever present threat of earthquakes to Italy's cultural heritage is the target of an initiative by Arcus, the commercial arm of the ministry of culture, set up by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The €4m project will study the seismic stability of 46 Italian museums, and is scheduled to run until 2014.

The research is expected to examine how to successfully monitor and intervene at structurally weak buildings in earthquake-prone areas, as well as providing the basis for plans to carry out pre-emptive structural renovations.

The museums on Arcus's list are located throughout the country, and include the Villa d'Este, Rome and the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples. Liliana Marra, an architect who works for the Polo Museale Napoli (the foundation that oversees the Museo Capodimonte as well as other leading institutions in the Naples area), says that seismic events such as the earthquake in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, have emphasised the need for such an initiative. “We [Capodimonte] are lucky not to have been affected [but] we can never predict what may happen in the future, which is why pre-emptive work is so necessary,” she says.

The director of Arcus, Ettore Pietrabissa, says that the key is prevention, a strategy that was previously overlooked but is now acknowledged as essential.

If successful, the scheme may be extended to cover all 306 state museums, at a total cost of around €15m.

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