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The Heritage Lab is born: the place where past and innovation meet

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The Historical Archive of Italgas, the result of about two centuries of history, will be entirely digitalized and will enhance the cultural heritage of the company
Reconciling history with innovation, Digital Transformation with the preservation of a great historical heritage: that of Italgas and the country. These are the objectives of the Heritage Lab, a new project, carried out together with the Giorgio Cini Foundation and ARCHiVe, which aims to digitize and renew the vast Italgas Archive and to give life to a new model of the Laboratory Museum. A physical and virtual meeting place that tells, in a totally innovative way, the historical riches of one of the most important companies in our country.
The heart and soul of the new Laboratory Museum will be the numerous original documents, the result of almost two centuries of history, which will represent a true unicum in the gas distribution sector. An immense wealth of information, which will tell a part of the social, economic and technological evolution of our country. The Heritage Lab, moreover, will represent a new Italian model for the fruition of historical contents, whose aim will not only be to preserve, arrange and observe the Italgas Archive, but to share and deepen, from a completely new point of view, its richness with the whole community and the whole territory. To date, Italgas' Archive, historical library, newspaper and periodical library and museum collections contain almost 200 years of history and include an original nucleus of:
  • over 1,000 linear meters of documents
  • 6,000 volumes, brochures and magazines
  • 35,000 prints, photographs and posters
  • 350 vintage equipment and instruments, declared by the Italian State to be of considerable historical interest and subject to notification and preservation requirements
Numbers, still growing today, which testify to the greatness of the historical and cultural treasure of the company and which highlight the importance of not dispersing the precious legacy left to us by the people who have made Italgas history. In this sense, the metadatation and the entire conversion of documents into big data , made possible thanks to the work of archivists and the use of innovative software, will represent an important bridge between the analogical contents of the past and the current modes of digital fruition. It is important to underline that the transformation of the historical heritage will not only coincide with the conversion of documents into images, but will pursue the firm will to make the fruition of these contents a real physical and virtual experience. An interactive path that puts the observer at the centre and tells our story with macro-themes of general interest. Historical and cultural strands that do not only involve specialists, but an increasingly broad and interested public (such as universities, cultural associations, local communities, businesses, museum networks and business archives). This is the direction in which the partnerships with the Giorgio Cini Foundation and the École Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne are heading. Two agreements that will allow Italgas to expand its archival and historiographical skills and that will give the company more opportunities for collaboration to further expand its proposal. Already today, in fact, Italgas' archival fonds represent very important sources for students in the writing of university theses. The aim is to make the Laboratory Museum a common good for the community and the territory, where documents, information and materials will be year after year, more and more usable and easier to consult.
Within the new Heritage Lab will play a fundamental role the laboratories present, which will be equipped with the most advanced technologies necessary to digitize documents in 2D and 3D. The transformation of the content will, in fact, become an integral part of the visitor's experience, who will have the opportunity to observe in real time the process of digitization of historical materials and will no longer be limited to a passive visualization of the final product. There will be 4 laboratories in the Heritage Lab:
  • the first will be for the time deposit of documents
  • in the second one, the necessary digitization preparation treatments will take place
  • the third will be equipped with the "Replica" scanner: a rapid scanning system capable of scanning a double-sided document in a few seconds
  • the last laboratory will instead contain all the other latest generation scanners including the "V Scanner", the "3D Lucida", the "LIDAR technology" and the "Time Machine Box".
The Italgas Museum will not only be a container of the company's history, where visitors will be able to follow exclusively exhibition itineraries, but it will become a real productive and always active laboratory. A meeting place that will see its hinge in the Data Square: a real "square" located inside the Museum, where the public will have the opportunity to enjoy the contents of digitizations and to interact with them in an innovative and virtual way.  Data Square itself, in fact, feeds on the contents of the Italgas Archive and challenges itself to combine and share with the public daily activities, technologies and documents of the past. The thread of the Museum will not be a simple linear and unitary succession of historical contents, but they will be conveyed to the observer through the creation of core values: homogeneous materials and narrative strands that will tell and analyze a series of specific themes related to the history of our country. The visitor can range from the evolution of social and cultural changes to those of the major Italian cities (through the consultation of maps and cartographies of the past), from scientific, technological and archaeological discoveries to themes of historical interest such as the two world wars and the progressive entry of women into the world of work.
Among the many objectives of the Heritage Lab is to make the Italgas Historical Archive and the Museum as places oriented towards sustainability. But how to reconcile the concepts of sustainability with the project of digitizing the archive? The process of digital transformation of documents of the past can be defined, in fact, as a path of dematerialization that involves a series of benefits, first of all that of the preservation of a cultural and historical heritage and the consequent creation of value for the whole territory and the community. Moreover, thanks to the digital enhancement of the contents, Italgas aims to represent for the country a model of process sustainability, where the final products of the museum become necessary materials to improve the daily work of the company. A path that in the future may prove to be a viable and sustainable way also for the enhancement of the historical heritage of other realities, combining a high technological knowledge with the ability to involve research institutions and the training and retraining of personnel. History, innovation and digitization. For Italgas and for the territory. For this reason the new Heritage Lab will represent a real digital asset for Italgas.