Italy Raises Museum Prices to Help Fund Flood Relief

Recent storms damaged museum collections and turned some cultural institutions into shelters

Classis museum of Ravenna
The Classis museum of Ravenna in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna became a shelter for those displaced by last month's severe flooding. Alessandro Serranò / AFP via Getty Images

When deadly flooding hit the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna last month, thousands of victims found themselves displaced. In the city of Ravenna, residents whose houses were damaged had nowhere to go—until the nearby Classis archaeological museum opened its doors.

“Seeing our museum full of people, around 800, with at least 150 of their dogs, and being able to welcome everyone into the beauty of our heritage was very moving,” Francesca Masi, director of the RavennAntica Foundation, said at the time, according to the Art Newspaper’s Stefano Luppi. “Many of the citizens who were able to return to their homes this morning promised to come back here to visit.”

Now, Italy’s museums are once again playing their part to help flood recovery. This summer, admission prices to state museums will rise €1 ($1.1) as part of a newly approved $2.2 billion aid package, reports Frances D’Emilio of the Associated Press (AP).

The funds raised will go toward repairs to cultural institutions, many of which were hurt badly by the natural disaster. One survey found that the flooding damaged 75 monuments, 6 archaeological sites and 12 libraries, reports the Guardian’s Angela Giuffrida. At the Guerrino Tramonti Museum in the city of Faenza, water submerged 1,800 ceramics and paintings in a storeroom and damaged the museum’s exhibit rooms, according to Euronews’ Rebecca Ann Hughes. In Bagnacavallo’s Museo delle Cappuccine, water damaged six frescoes in storage.

Restoration efforts are underway for books and documents from the region’s libraries that were damaged by water and mud. The texts, some of which date to the 16th century, are being frozen in an effort to preserve them. 

“We usually use this process for ripe fruit and vegetables within three hours of harvesting, but I never expected this rapid procedure could also be useful for our literary heritage,” says Bruno Piraccini, president of Orogel, a frozen food company that’s working with the libraries, to the Italian news agency ANSA, per the Guardian.

While all agree that repairing damage to cultural heritage institutions is critical, not everyone thinks that the admissions hike is the best way to foot the bill. “I don’t think that this policy is right, if only for an evident lack of social equality,” says Giuliano Volpe, an archaeologist at the University of Bari, to the Art Newspaper’s James Imam. “The country should be helping the young and unemployed.”

Following the flooding, climate activists dyed the water of Rome’s Trevi Fountain black; some scientists have linked the flooding to climate change, as years of severe drought exacerbated the effect of torrential rains, devastating the region’s agricultural sector and popular tourist resorts. The floods killed at least 14 victims.

“I’ve lived here for 70 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Lino Lenzi, an 80-year-old resident of the region, tells BBC News’ Davide Ghiglione and Sofia Bettiza.

Stefano Bonaccini, the governor of Emilia-Romagna, also emphasized the destruction wrought by the event. While grateful for the government’s quick approval of an aid package, he said at a press conference that the region “has wounds and will have them for a while,” per the AP.

“There are people who lost everything,” he added, “or who lost almost everything.”

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