At LUBEC 2013 (Lucca Cultural Heritage, MaketTank joined the workshop "Italy Wonderland. The new museum bookshop between craftsmanship and technologies" to show how digital manufacturing and open hardware could help Italian museums in creating a self-produced, low-cost, customized and contemporary merchandising. The workshop was born exactly from the idea that we need to start new Made in Italy projects for "a different model of the bookshop where the merchandise will establish itself as a vehicle for the dissemination of our cultural identity".

At MakeTank we like to create contamination between traditional Crafts and Design with Open Hardware and Digital Fabrication - like the made in Tuscany leather case for the hyper-technological Leap Motion, which has been purchased even by one of its inventors - and our ecosystem is made of sharing, experimentation and crowdfunding. That's (also) why, speaking about museum artshops and bookshops, we proposed some examples of possible innovative ideas for visitors and tourists.

Credit photo: AAMuseum

Mariano Zisa used 3D printing to replicate the facades of the baroque churches of Scicli (Sicily): their 3D models were made from photometric images, carefully designing every detail. Then, facades are produced in scale sending their files to a 3D printing service that, after 10 days, sends back the results. After some tests, Mariano chose ceramic as printing material but also reproduced the facades of the church of Santa Maria La Nova in chocolate. Our architectural heritage would let us decline indefinitely this simple idea.

Also from Sicily comes the Tisky Tosky project, by Marcella Pizzuto. Starting from the front photos of the main monuments of Palermo (Politeama Theatre, Cathedral, Teatro Massimo, etc.), she designed their outline and then printed them in 3D at the FabLab Palermo. Not satisfied, she also developed an application, based on Arduino, able to pick up the weather in Palermo and make it visible through a matrix (yellow sun, gray cloud, etc.) placed in a plexiglas box next to the model. Tisky Tosky becomes an interactive souvenir to always show what the weather is in Palermo, wherever you are.

Speaking of MakeTank itself, it's worth mentioning what Zeno Pacciani is doing with his cardboard skylines of major Italian cities (the first series is on Florence, his hometown). The skylines trigger the imagination and educate children in the beauty of Italy (you can play a game to try and recognize the sights and learn their history). They are manufactured at a low cost and customizable (colors, designs, etc..). A very popular product for American tourists, who have purchased it by the dozen on MakeTank, but also for people from Berlin and London, and even from Florence.

Another example in which I have personally come across is the Loft Market of the Powerscourt Center in Dublin. It is a store that combines different corners of Irish craftsmen, designers and artists who rotate over time giving an idea of the local creative scene. It is a place where to find a truly unique object, always different, in a prestigious shopping center where individual designers and artists could never afford to have their own space. We could do the same inside the store of Italian museums: creative people, artisans and designers are not lacking!

Vitra Museum is very interesting, too: the historic Swiss design furniture company Museum offers more than 20 years of history of furniture through 'official' miniatures  (armchairs, chairs, chaise lounges, etc..). This collection includes over 100 pieces of original scale replicas with every detail and today not only the original furniture, but also the Vitra miniatures have become a cult favorite among passionate interior designers. And it's better if we make "official" things like those miniatures, because - as much as we are aware of it or not - on Shapeways you can find the "unofficial" version of anything (for Vitra, a plastic reproduction of the legendary Eames chair on sale for only $ 18 instead of more than 500 euros for the official miniature in plywood, aluminum and leather).

Charles Eames, Armchair (1956): this is the miniature you can buy online

How can we find new talents to create a new generation of merchandising? Through design contests! Recently, as we wrote here, one of our vendors won the Special Prize of Ministry of Culture (Ministry of Heritage and Cultural Activities) in the DAB - Design for Artshop and Bookshop contest with its City Stencil. A contemporary object, self-produced at low cost and made of materials that can be used in contact with food (poplar and plexiglas), which evokes the Italian gastronomic culture (cappuccino) and the peculiar elements of art cities. The original souvenir is now on sale at the Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena.

And then, starting from what they did in Tokyo with the FabCafè (we wrote about it here), why not give way to the tourists and visitors to customize the template of an object that is already available at the Museum with a plotter or a 3D printer available in the store?

City Stencil, by Elisa Radice

These are some of our ideas, with the ultimate question: what should we do nowadays to propose a really different bookshop model, where the merchandise will become one of the pillars of museums' economy? With public funding becoming less and less important, high quality merchandising could allow Museums Italian to be self-sustaining creating 'cult' art and design objects. This is already happening in many museums in the world (think of MOMA or Guggenheim in New York): they have their physical stores, of course, but also online stores where tourists can always purchase new objects from the comfort of their homes. All this is already possible now!


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