Preserving and protecting Italy’s rich culture requires a strong support system. Up until 2015, important museums and historical sites lacked the resources to keep up with changing times. Two years ago Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism pushed innovative reforms – like placing foreigners in director positions – to address pressing concerns. Now, because of those reforms, more tourists are flocking to Italy’s abundance of attractions.
When History Fades
Italy’s long, celebrated history is both a gift and a burden to the country’s people. Museums must be renovated. Artifacts must be guarded adequately. Iconic structures like the Trevi Fountain must be kept alive for future generations. In recent years antique smuggling increased, while outdated museums failed to bring in the expected amount of tourists. Pompeii started to crumble and the Colosseum needed a facelift.
Two years ago, the government stepped in. They initiated the Art Bonus Tax, rewarding philanthropists who donated to cultural projects. Many prominent attractions such as Pompeii got into the spirit with crowdfunding campaigns. While corporate sponsorship is still prohibited, donors are encouraged to spread the word about their causes. Additionally museums received permission to install modern tourist conveniences like cafes, bookstores and audio guides.
The most controversial move was allowing foreigners to occupy director spots on museum boards. Cultural establishments expanded their horizons by working with non-Italians. The Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini traveled to New York to meet with directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim. When Italian government involvement complicated matters, they granted museums autonomy in hiring decisions.
Did the Reforms Work?
The answer is an enthusiastic “yes.” Museum traffic now consistently increases. Recently, the Culture Ministry announced that the number jumped seven percent in two years. This year 23 million people visited museums, a two million increase from just the year before. Revenue went up 17 percent, or 88 million euros (around $104 million). Support from the government has led to more marketing creativity and more prominence across the online universe.
However, not all progress has been smooth sailing. The government voided five non-Italian director appointments after complaints from Italian candidates. After protests from Minister Franceschini and further examination in court, the targeted directors have returned to their posts.
Overall though, the reforms proved to be positive. While it might take some time for traditionalists to adjust, embracing the twenty-first century will preserve Italy’s culture and history.