The Civic Museums of Palazzo Buonaccorsi and the Carriage Museum

Musei Civici di Palazzo Buonaccorsi, Macerata

General overview

After being damaged by the 1997 earthquake, Palazzo Buonaccorsi is being restored and adapted to house Macerata’s Museum of Ancient Art,  Museum of Modern Art and Coach Museum. Physical accessibility of this challenging building was an integral part of the restoration programme. At the same time, the museums are taking on a social role, promoting active citizenship, inter-cultural dialogue and participation. New exhibitions and museum learning foster audience engagement, including for people with a disability.

Principal access interventions :

  1. Mobility (lift and platform lifts)
  2. Multisensorial experience and inclusive communication
  3. Interaction with the community

Accessibility for visitors with a disability is an integral part of a development towards a participatory museum, thriving to create inclusion, community heritage and intercultural dialogue.

Location :

  • Macerata, Marche, Italy

Description :

Palazzo Buonaccorsi is a C18 palace hosting the Carriage Museum, the Ancient Art Gallery and the Modern Art Gallery. Restored after the 1997 earthquake, the building was adapted to host the city’s collections and to use them as a “social aggregator”.

The Palace is owned by the local authority of Macerata, which has a population of approximatively 43 000.

Find out more :

Photo credits: Photographic archive of the Civic Museums of Macerata

Authors of the article:

  • Giuliana Pascucci, Conservatore dei Musei Civici del Palazzo Buonaccorsi, Macerata
  • Michele Giuli
  • Maria Teresa La Matina
  • Isabella Tiziana Steffan, Studio Steffan – Progettazione e Ricerca, Milano

Challenges

Heritage significance and attractiveness

Palazzo Buonaccorsi is one of the most beautiful historic palaces in the region and was designed by Giovan Battista Contini, a disciple of Bernini. Its restoration and consolidation after the 1997 earthquake played an important role in the recovery of cultural heritage in the Marche. The palace had all its decorations, wooden windows and doors, ceiling coffers, statues in the courtyard and panoramic terrace fully restored. 

Close to the Cathedral and Piazza della Libertà – the square with the Lauro Rossi Theatre, the Civic Tower and the Council Hall Building; it is one of the gems of the historic city centre of Macerata.

The Museums have approx 20 000 visitors a year on site, of whom aprons two thirds are from Italy and 30 000 online.

Fig 1. The Carriage Museum in Palazzo Buonaccorsi (2009).
Fig 1. The Carriage Museum in Palazzo Buonaccorsi (2009).
Fig. 2 The Carriage Museum in the Mozzi Borgetti Library (1962).
Fig. 2 The Carriage Museum in the Mozzi Borgetti Library (1962).

Access challenges

  • the Carriage Museumhosted from 1962-2002 at the Mozzi Borgetti Library (2) wasn’t accessible for people with disabilities. At Palazzo Buonaccorsi there was no elevator
  • accessibility to the collections and their contents was poor for visually impaired people and deaf people
  • exhibition concepts were dated

Approach

The restoration of Palazzo Buonaccorsi played a big role in the valorisation of cultural heritage in the Marche after the 1997 earthquake. The museums adopted the Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society, signed by Italy in 2013. This emphasises the important aspects of heritage as they relate to human rights and democracy. It promotes a wider understanding of heritage and its relationship to communities and society.

Thus, the museum commits to being an inclusive museum. It works hard to build a new cultural identity supporting participation, intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and active citizenship. The municipal collection aims to create a “community heritage” and to involve public institutions, citizens and associations in the promotion of cultural heritage and of the local area.

The museum seeks to be a “social aggregator” playing an active role in the community. It has significant potential to contribute to knowledge of one self’s social and cultural identities. In such an approach, the institutional functions such as acquisition, conservation, research and exhibitions become blended.

The Museum adopts a narrative approach to museum learning and community engagement.

Commitment to the accessibility of the building and to collections for people with a disability is an integral part of this organisational transformation.

Project

Remarkable accessibility and inclusive design features of the project

Accessibility and mobility

Ingress

The Palace can be reached via the main visitor entrance in Via Don Minzoni 24 (fig.3), though this involves ramp, stairlift and elevator. There is also facilitated access in Via Armaroli 2 (fig. 4).

Fig. 5 Entrance in don Minzoni, 24
Fig. 3 Entrance in don Minzoni, 24
Fig. 4 Facilitated ac-cess for people with physical disability, via Armaroli 2
Fig. 4 Facilitated ac-cess for people with physical disability, via Armaroli 2

Vertical circulation and egress

The building consists of a basement floor and 5 floors. An elevator has been added to the modern stair case space. The moderate historic importance of that space allowed minor changes. The elevator reaches the coffeehouse (+8.85 m), offering a safe escape. From this landing, disabled people can access the 1st and the 2nd floor of the Palace with the help of two stairlifts. Another stairlift helps people reach the 3rd floor.

Fig.5. Civic Museums of Palazzo Buonaccorsi – Carriage Museum. Ground floor
Fig.5. Civic Museums of Palazzo Buonaccorsi – Carriage Museum. Ground floor
Fig.6. Carriage Museum. Lower ground floor
Fig.6. Carriage Museum. Lower ground floor

Multisensorial Experience

The multisensorial experience involves features for all visitors including children, for blind and partially sighted people and for deaf people.

Sound features include the sound of horses walking on the wooden floor in the entrance of the 18th century Palace, recalling the daily coming and going of the ancient Buonaccorsi carriages.

Two tactile models were made of one carriage : a small volumetric model with Braille captions enables a fast grasp of the overall shape; a 1:3 scale model reveals details and is accompanied with a braille leaflet. The models are an introduction to a tactile itinerary for the public, that offers a more complete vision and understanding of the carriage collection. Staff is trained to guide through a tactile visit.

Fig.7.Tactile tour with partially sighted and blind people, guided by a trained museum operator
Fig.7.Tactile tour with partially sighted and blind people, guided by a trained museum operator

Tablets available for all visitors offer detailed multi-lingual information on the carriages on show: their body, mechanics, history and evolution. The tablets get activated when lifted in facilitated mode. Three carriages are audio-described. There are two video clips in Italian Sign Language (LIS), of which one informs on the city’s cultural offer.

Fig.8.Carriage Museum – tactile itineraries for children, with a surprise chest to play with the coachman’s clothes
Fig.8.Carriage Museum – tactile itineraries for children, with a surprise chest to play with the coachman’s clothes

Community interaction

The project Museo dell’altro (Museum of the other) builds on geographical proximity to foster “good cultural neighbourhood” with the nearby CAS – Centro di Ascolto e di Prima Accoglienzaa centre which welcomes people in need, particularly immigrants. “Mani che parlano” (Speaking Hands) was a collaborative project which brought students from the High School of Arts (lyceum) and asylum seekers together to foster inter-cultural dialogue and cultural integration through making sculptures.

The Museum collaborates with many kinds of school, centres for people with physical or mental disability and with people with Alzheimer.

Fig.9. The guests of a centre for people with Alzheimer visits the Carriage Museum
Fig.9. The guests of a centre for people with Alzheimer visits the Carriage Museum

Players and processes

Players

  • Client: Comune Macerata
  • Architects: Museum Engineering srl, arch. Luca Schiavoni
  • Collaborators: Carlo Chiatti, Valeria Venturini, Giorgio Bartocci, Massimo Carletti
  • Service Provider : Gruppo Bodino Spa
  • Year of the project’s realisation : 2008-2009
  • Cost: 500.000,00€
  • Area of intervention: 1000 mq

Processes

Physical accessibility

Palazzo Buonaccorsi is a highly complex C18 building that incorporates several pre-existing buildings (dated C15). The initial idea was rejected by the Superintendence of Ancona (chief town of the Marche region). It would have required the partial occupation of the vicolo Buonaccorsi lane with elevators and/or emergency stairs and flyovers. Instead, a minimally invasive solution was developed, approved by the Superintendence and the Firefighters. 

Museography

Museum Engineering srl, a society specialised in museology and museography worked hand in hand with the museum’s scientific division, sharing expertise and methodological knowledge gathered over more than two decades.

An engaging narrative exhibition concept was implemented with interactive videos, audio tracks historic images and traditional graphics that contextualise the carriages in their land, time and culture.

Multi-media tablets with wide ranging information on the carriages were developed, including for visually impaired people and deaf people, as an initiative within the regional network of museums Il Museo di tutti e per tutti (“A museum of and for all”) that pays great attention to accessible technologies.

Multisensory features were integrated into the museography. The Macerata section of the Italian Blind Union (Unione Italiana Ciechi) and the State Tactile Museum of Ancona Museo Omero advised on accessibility for visually impaired people.

Pictures and maps