“This is probably one of the first examples of a FabLab in a museum” said FabLab guru Massimo Menichinelli at the inauguration of Trento’s new Museum of Science, MUSE, in our exclusive interview. Menichinelli hopes that the newest FabLab in Italy will “be a good example for institutions for what they can achieve by supporting local communities.”

There was a 24 hour party starting on July 27 at 6pm for the opening of the newest attraction in the town of Trent, Italy: the Museum of Science (MUSE). The museum, a project nearly 10 years in the making, was inaugurated by the building’s architect Renzo Piano, whose design was inspired by the surrounding mountain landscape of the Trentino area.

MUSE. Photo: Alessandro Gadotti / Archivio TrentoFutura

But what is on the outside of the museum only tells part of the story. Among the various interactive installations and displays, the museum boasts the newest FabLab in Italy, curated by Massimo Menichinelli, considered a guru of the FabLab movement.

Menichinelli helped to develop the AALTO Media Factory in Helsinki, Finland, which he used as a prototype for the FabLab in Trento.  Particular attention was paid to the equipment in the FabLab, since one important component for any FabLab is that they have similar equipment. The official list of equipment comes from MIT in the United States, where FabLabs first started, and includes things like a laser cutter, Vinyl/Sign Cutter, and 3D printer, but Menichinelli says that the equipment can also depend “on the specific place, or what you have to do specifically as activities.”

FabLab Trento. Photo www.openp2pdesign.org

Given his experience in Finland, he brought the same equipment to the Lab in Trent in order to create a direct connection and support system between the two labs. Four conditions for being called a FabLab include: sharing the same tools or machines, applying the FabLab charter, participating in a global network, and being open during the week. Creating this bridge between Trent and Helsinki puts FabLab MUSE in touch with other European FabLabs from the start. As Menichinelli points out, at each FabLab “you are working independently and openly but you are part of a network. So there is always a balance between working locally and working globally.”

Though there are similarities between the AALTO Media Factory and FabLab MUSE, there are also some notable differences. Unlike other labs that are run by volunteers or part-time staff, two full-time staff will run FabLab MUSE. “Nobody has all the knowledge and there are too many things to do. One person cannot manage everything, so at least two I would say [are needed],” explained Menichinelli. “Also you need to have some balance in the profiles and the background. So if you need someone who is more creative or has a background in design architecture. Then you need also somebody who has a more of a background in computer science and electronics. It is very difficult that you have both [in one person].”

MUSE museum is the context for this FabLab. Photo: Claudia Corret / Archivio MUSE Museo delle Scienze

Another notable difference is the space in which the FabLab is located and its intended target. AALTO Media Factory is located in the art, design and architecture faculty of a university, but FabLab MUSE is “probably one of the first examples of a FabLab in a museum” and the first example of a FabLab in a museum in Italy. Unlike AALTO Media Factory, FabLab Trento is less focused on media and more on education, workshops and activities with children. Menichinelli estimates that 40% of the work will be dedicated to education activities, 40% to creating things for the museum itself, and another 20% working with institutions outside of the museum.

Menichinelli is positive that the location of FabLab MUSE will help the FabLab community overall in Italy, which has found it difficult to grow due to lack of institutional support. “This could also be a good example for institutions for what they can achieve by supporting local communities. I hope that this will be a good example in that direction”.

 

Christina Craver grew up in Silver Spring, MD, where she lived a stone’s throw away from some of the country’s best museums, instilling a life-long love of them. She completed her Masters in EU policy in Florence, and after a stint in the EU Parliament, now resides in Trento, Italy. She works in marketing and communication for Trento Rise (organizer of the local TEDxTrento) and writes for the satirical blog More Europe!

 

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