Museum of Geo-paleontology
A rich donation of fossils and prehistoric material, not to mention the assignment of new space for the Civic Museum on the ground floor of the east wing at the rear of the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) has led to the birth of the new Civic Museum of Velletri, dedicated to the Geo-paleontology and Pre-history of the Colle Albani Hills. The Museum also exhibits an important collection of material originating from recent excavations in the most important pre-historic sites in the area, supervised by the Archaeological Superintendence Office for Lazio.
It spreads over two floors (with a surface of more than four hundred square metres) and narrates, within the five sections (geology, paleontology, anthropology, pre-history and proto-history), the principal events that, starting from the very Beginning (several hundred million years ago) up to the Iron Age (VII-VI B.C.), have characterized ancient history in the Castelli Romani area, the transformation that the landscape, vegetation and the animal world has under-gone to become how we see and experience it today.
It is a new-concept museum that tends to favour the combined use of all the visitors’ perceptive senses: they can see, hear and touch, they are involved and, above all, their curiosity is aroused by an experience to remember and talk about, one that hopefully will stimulate a more profound interest to be further cultivated. In a decidedly marked educational environment as this, where whenever possible, interactivity with the public is favoured, difficult topics are explained with the use of paleontological and archaeological material, with particularly rich explanatory-photographic apparatus that illustrate the various activities out on the field (surveys, analysis of geological discoveries, excavations and illustrations of laboratory analysis) together with the back-up of reproductions, moulds, scenery, models and films.
Apart from the standard didactic panels in Italian/English, this museum offers a parallel path written for the very young: the Children’s Itinerary, made up of illustrated panels placed at their own height. In the different scenes, the Vulcano Laziale is always to be seen, represented in five different ways: at first young and fiery, then in full activity and afterwards, gradually settling down as it grows older until, in the last picture, in a quiet phase with a lake (Albano Lake) in the crater with thick woodland as a beard. The volcano is the key element in the history of the Colli Albani Hills, so much so that it has changed the aspect of the territory with its explosions and rivers of red-hot lava; it represents the voice behind the scenes of the various picture panels and is the mascot-guide that tells the little ones, through the use of simple and amusing language, all about the contents of the museum. Thought up for the younger visitors, it is set in an original key which makes the communicative capacity of this Museum its strong point.
The Collection and Exhibition Layout
Using the same luminous and spacious entrance to the Archaeological Museum one begins this new itinerary for the museum via the “tunnel of fire”: the narration of the birth of the Colle Albani Hills begins in the surreal atmosphere created by audio/visual supports with this scenic expedient, catapulting the visitors back in time to over a hundred and fifty thousand years ago; right in the midst of a volcanic eruption.
Owing to the fact that the volcanic activity profoundly changed the landscape in this area, it is precisely from this “world of volcanoes” that the “excursion” begins in this first section which is dedicated to geology (forgetting for the present that the history of this territory actually began several million years beforehand, as it is subsequently narrated in the following sections) with the development of complex topics, such as: the geological era, the structure and history of the Earth, fossilization etc.
The narration continues along a fascinating and articulated itinerary punctuated by the model of the carbonatic platform (reconstruction of the territory of Lazio dating back from more than a hundred million years ago), by an interactive diorama that illustrates the changes in the landscape throughout Lazio in relation to the variations of the sea-level and by a model of the Volcano, with which the visitor can interact using a button to “illuminate” the magmatic room, the underground tunnels taking the magma back up through the volcano, the debris cones and the edges of the caldera.
The fossilization is the first topic to be undertaken in the paleontology section, beginning with the main phases that lead an organism from death to its entombment and consequent fossilization and, then, to it being unearthed again. Fossils represent the starting point with which to investigate further into life of the past, and this section displays a good variety, together with a model of dinosaurs once present in this territory, various vertebrae, and plaster moulds of their imprints.
In a small projection room, a film showing the origins and evolution of life in the territory of Albano, before the appearance of man, helps towards integrating the theme of the museum by introducing the last section on the ground floor, that of Anthropology.
It is here that a number of findings of the Eneolithic or Copper Age, such as a tortoise shell and a skull, together with a series of life-size cut-out wooden shapes (from primates to homo sapiens), with the relative skull next to each, illustrate the development of cranium capacity and the variation in contour, posture and body mass during the course of three million years. The biological and environmental forces that led to the apparition of man are observed by retracing the main stages of evolution in the light of its interaction within its surroundings.
The itinerary continues to the upper floor, where the pre-historic and the proto-historic sections are introduced by illustrations of the habitat regarding these two eras, with particular attention being paid towards the changes in climate, to the different types of wild-life and vegetation and to the relationship between the environment and man: hunting, domestication of animals, crop cultivation etc.
In the Pre-history section the changes that have characterized the course of man, from the late Paleolithic Era to the Neolithic Era, are represented by numerous evidence of daily life such as utensils in stone and various types of ceramic, of various dioramas and by the reconstruction of a grotto, in which the visitors come into direct contact with the customs of Paleolithic man.
The last section illustrates the various types of social and economic organization in act during the early Bronze Age until the Iron Age, through a presentation of objects, the reconstruction of a funeral pyre and the interior of a hut where it is possible for the visitors to enter, interact with materials on display and watch short films.
The itinerary, that has sought to offer an insight into a reality that is concealed, dispersed, forgotten and is now extinct, interprets and codifies, through the use of images, a universe that subtends our daily lives and of which we are the final result, finishes here. It is a tour that is inspired by the concept of representation, the theatrum mundi (world theatre) with the fundamental need, based on an accumulation of similar experiences, to avoid archetypal passiveness and the traditional route, creating the possibility to set in motion gestures/actions that stimulate curiosity, skill, memory and dexterity. A Museum, therefore, where it is “forbidden NOT to touch”.
Palazzo Comunale, Via Goffredo Mameli 4-6
00049 Velletri RM Italy
Phone +39 06 96158268
Phone/fax: +39 06 96158239