11 December 2005

The experience of visiting the Museum of the Mountains

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Museo_montagna
Today I visited Italy’s National Museum of the Mountains (“Museo Nazionale della Montagna”), which is located just a few minutes from my home on a hill overlooking the city of Turin.

In fact, the museum re-opened today after an extensive two-year renovation and the result is a great example of how to create a well-crafted user experience in a museum context. It is a must when you visit Turin.

The museum is located on top of one of the hills right next to the city centre, on a site which used to be occupied by a fortress and later on by a still functioning Capucine monastery.

You enter the circular building on the ground floor where a video of a theatrical mountaineer (subtitled in flawless English) introduces you to the overall scope of the exhibit. The actor, Giuseppe Cederna, is omnipresent in the exhibit and clarifies the topics of the various areas by directly using the exhibited artefacts.

The exhibition is organised in eight thematic areas, four on the first floor and four on the second, explaining in short the story of how the mountains are at once a delicate ecosystem, an area of age-old cultures, and for about a century also an area of leisure and sports, with skiing having becoming a genuinely popular winter sport just after the second world war.

The central part of the building allows for temporary exhibitions, and one of them is currently devoted to the story of the Canadian gold rush in the mountains around Klondike and the Chilkoot Pass at the end of the 19th Century.

In the end though, I was most impressed by how the museum gives you an emotional, vivid and visceral feeling of why people can feel such strong fascination and passion for the mountains.

This feeling of shared excitement is even more enhanced when you finish the “climb” of the building and head up to the third floor where on a newly constructed open air roof terrace you can admire a spectacular panorama of 400 km (270 miles) of Alps.

Do go on a clear day. And don’t worry about taking children. They will enjoy it as much as you do.

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