Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Alinari National Museum of Photography Now Open

A month ago, in Florence, the new Alinari National Museum of Photography opened in a renovated historic structure in Piazza Santa Maria Novella.

Now the collection from the fabulous Alinari Archives will be displayed to the public, representing an astonishing patrimony of documentary material pertaining to art, history, folklore, landscape, industry and society. The particularly exciting thing to me is that Alinari has, from the beginning, specialized (among other things) in the documentation of works of art and historic monuments.

Founded in Florence in 1852, Fratelli Alinari is the oldest photography firm in the world. Through Alinari photographs – dating from the second half of the 19thC to the present – the history, society, art and culture of Italy and Europe and the rest of the world, have been preserved and catalogued.

Alinari owns more than 3.5 million images, plus the firm manages or represents more than 21 million photos owned by other organizations, including 400,000 images from the archive of the Touring Club Italiano.

Not going to be in Florence any time soon? You can gain on-line access to the Alinari Archive at The website also has a bookstore with interesting books of photography, and also selections of cards.

According to the official press release announcing the opening, “The itinerary begins with the year 1839, with the first daguerreotypes, and goes as far as the digital images and photocellular phones of today. It is a fascinating itinerary that journeys through the era of the pioneers; the new world of a picture that can be technically reproduced, thus revolutionizing possibilities for knowing and seeing; … the relentless technological advances which created a market for everyone; photography which refines its language to become an art; and an infinite number of promotional objects. Hundreds of rare photographs, vintage objects, cameras of the past and the most up to date … in a presentation designed by the Oscar winning film director Giuseppe Tornatore."

There is also a space for temporary exhibits. The first themed display is called View of Italy, 1841-1941: The Great Masters of Italian Photography in the Alinari Collections.

Finally, one very interesting first-of-its-kind experiment that the Museum developed in collaboration with the Stamperia Braille of the Region of Tuscany is the “touch tour for the blind.” It’s a unique collection of 20 pictures re-created in relief to be seen by the blind through touch. Even as a sighted person, I look forward to experiencing the touch tour. I wonder if feeling the dimensionality of an image will enhance my seeing in any way.

In the words of Florence’s mayor Leonardo Domenici “The MNAF ( Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia) is a new treasure for Florence, a museum of modernity of exceptional cultural value. It also has allowed the city to reclaim in the best of ways the historical Leopoldine complex threatened with deterioration. Once restoration is completed the complex will also house the Museo del Novecento (20th C) dedicated to contemporary Italian art.”

I won’t be in Florence again until next Fall, so I’ll have to make do ‘til then with on-line access to the archive. But the MNAF will definitley be on my itinerary when I do get there!

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