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History of Psychiatry Museum

Comune di Reggio Emilia - 2011

The museum display project inside the Lombroso Pavilion draws on the desire to valorise the extraordinary heritage which makes Reggio Emilia a key site in the collection of materials on the history of Italian psychiatry. Apart from the bibliographical heritage of the Carlo Livi Scientific Library (one of a kind, among the most diverse in Italy) at the ex ‘San Lazzaro’ Institute, important – in some cases unique – examples of mechanisms for containment and therapy are stored, along with a wide range of scientific instruments, around 1,500 photos portraying the life and history of the institute from 1880 onwards, tens upon tens of thousands of medical records, currently being studied for publication, an interesting collection of videos on mental illness, and almost 8,000 figurative works produced by patients over the course of more than 100 years. The new museum structure was founded with the aim of protecting and valorising these precious testimonies, and fostering study and research into the history of psychiatry and its transformations, of which Reggio Emilia has always been a leading protagonist. As well as the explicit safeguarding and valorisation of the ‘memory’ of the place (the Lombroso Pavilion itself constitutes both a monument and at the same time an exemplary document of the history of psychiatry) the display is characterised by the use of multimedia systems and devices used not only for their informative potential, but also to stimulate a greater involvement on the part of the visiting public. The display project is in fact based on the opportunity to present a narrative open to personal interpretations and evocations set against a broader interpretation of illness and diversity through installations that trace the key themes which characterised the history of San Lazzaro and the evolution of psychiatric care in general.

Year: 2011-2013
Commissioned by: Reggio Emilia City Council
Location: former San Lazzaro Mental Health Clinic, Reggio Emilia
Collaborator: Alberto Benatti
3D Rendering & Animation: Alex Lomarco


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