Italian culture is in a bad way, and the state museums have been hit the worst. Never mind things like Pompeii falling apart (that’s old news), or sections of museums being closed because they can’t afford guards to open them. News last week revealed that ticket sales in all the state museums in Italy combined make up only 75% of what the Louvre earns in tickets in one year (source). In 2013, the annual Settimana della Cultura, which ought to have been this coming week, has been canceled for lack of funds.  Add to this a disinterested public that feels ever more distant from cultural heritage and the way it is presented, especially in this country, which has shied away from investing in innovation in this and other fields.

Digital invasion to the rescue! A grass roots movement called #invasionidigitali is taking place from April 20-28 2013 (during ex-culture week) with a simple yet marvelous goal: to promote our nation’s cultural and artistic heritage through social media. Anyone can organize an invasion of a museum or site, announce it as an event, show up and ‘invade’ the space by taking tons of pictures, video, and posting about it online through blogs and social networks. A forced, open and sharing attitude to culture to counteract its immobility.

The idea is the brainchild of a certain Fabrizio Todisco, who has teamed up with an association of Italian bloggers, an association of small museums in Italy, an important tourism blog and the national instagrammers club. In the past week, I’ve watched the concept explode. 15 days ago I swear there was no sign of it. Without apparent promotion except natural, viral diffusion, invasions are cropping up in hundreds of locations, organized by bloggers, tour guides, photographers, associations, and anyone else who feels like participating.

#invasionidigitali seems to express both heartfelt love for the country and its treasures and an unexpressed frustration for its mismanagement. Or am I projecting my own feelings onto it? I fully subscribe to the manifesto expressed on the site, and appreciate the way it is expressed in a positive manner. It shows people taking matters into their own hands when the state won’t do anything, or can’t due to lack of funds.

The manifesto is worth translating in full for foreign readers (find the original here).

*We believe in new forms of conversation and spreading the word about the artistic patrimony that is no longer authoratative, conservative, but rather open, free, welcoming and innovative.
*We believe in a new relationship between the museum and the visitor, based on participation for the production, creation and promotion of culture.
*We believe that the platforms that create connections between visitors, experts, scholars, and those passionate about art, that permit users to collaborate with museum offerings through user-generated content can help a co-creative process of cultural value.
*We believe in a new experience when visiting cultural sites, not passive but active, where knowledge is not just transmitted but constructed, and where the visitor is involved and able to create his or her own forms of art.
*We believe that internet and social media are a huge opportunity for cultural communication, a way to get more people involved, to break down barriers and help creation, sharing, spreading and creating worth of our artistic patrimony.
*We believe that internet is able to create new methods of management, conservation, protection and communication of our resources.

I could not agree more, and could not have said it better. If you agree, you can use your facebook login to comment on the page liked above and subscribe to the manifesto.

As someone who has taught social media for cultural institutions and consults on or manages social media for museums in Tuscany, this kind of participation through social media is exactly what I have been pushing for years. Other people are even more active than I in this – blogger Hasan Niyazi has made diffusion and conversation about Italan culture his life’s goal.

In a country prone to complaining rather than taking matters into its own hands, finally someone is trying to do something. Will it have an impact? It is certainly visible, but to be honest, I have pretty strong proof that the government will not listen to even much larger and more directly institutional suggestions about how to change the management of the country’s cultural heritage (you will recall that I worked on the social media for Florens 2012, and I have yet to see concrete feedback from the Quirinale on the suggestions made at both editions of this biennial).

But let’s not get downtrodden. Bring your cell phone charger and get ready to invade a few museums. Possibly in disregard for any legislation prohibiting you from taking photos inside (oops I didn’t say that…).

In my corner of Tuscany, the following #invasionidigitali are planned:

  • Flod (the agency at which I work) in collaboration with GGD Toscana and Visit Prato host the invasion of the Museo del Tessuto of Prato (see fb page – and sign up here)
  • Leila from TuscanyArts (the blog I started when I used to work for the region’s tourism campaign) is invading Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, where I will be helping to welcome invaders, along with members of the museum’s social media team (sign up here)
  • Blogger Sara Boccolini and a few friends are behind an invasion of the Richard Ginori museum in Sesto Fiorentino, historically important right now as the factory is on the brink of closure, a major loss for this country’s artisan production (sign up here).
  • In Pisa, a truly obscure museum will be open and ready for invasion – the museum of calculating instruments! Sign up here.
  • In Siena the pinacoteca nazionale is up for grabs; the Etruscan museum will be invaded in Volterra; Giotto’s house in Borgo san Lorenzo and more that you can find by looking at the map on the official website of the #invasionidigitali.

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