Renewing Pompeii, Year Zero: Promises and Expectations from New Approaches to Museum Management and Accountability
Posted: 17 Feb 2008
The call for a more "managerial" approach in running museums and other cultural organisations is a common phenomenon in western societies, and Italy is not an exception to this rule. Within this context Pompeii is particularly a significant reality, more than a simple "example". On September 1997 a national law gave it a new "status": from the previous nature of a local branch of the Ministry of Arts (the Soprintendenza), it is now configured as an autonomous entity (Soprintendenza autonoma) on an experimental basis. The law indeed seems to largely refer to a more general movement towards the "managerialisation" of art organisations, as far as a new role is introduced close to the Superintendent: the "city manager", as normally referred to. Furthermore, this institutional innovation is taking place within a context of an explicit project to renew Pompeii, strongly supported by the Ministry, and which gained an increasing visibility in the last years.
In a sense, such a situation represents an ideal "social laboratory" to test the impact of management culture and rhetoric in addressing attention and mobilising collective action. However, as a first advice from the strategic management literature, what is needed as a starting point (year 0) is to achieve a deep understanding of antecedents, the past and present functioning of this complex organisation, if the promises and expectations for change are to be driven towards some influence in the future developments of Pompeii. The risk is not to fully grasp the nature and magnitude of changes that are needed, and the conditions for change.
The paper is focused on the reconstruction of the evolution of Pompeii (or better, the organisation of the archaeological site of Pompeii) from the establishment as a local branch of the Ministry on 1980 to the new status of autonomous entity on 1997. Four major variables are taken into account to describe the dynamic of this reality: the activities characterising such a unique archaeological site; the relations with visitors and other relevant segments of "audience"; human resources and organisational structures and procedures; financial resources and their representation. Finally, based on the contradictions empirically emerged from the reconstruction of the past evolution, some of the major questions and difficulties challenging the project of renewing Pompeii will tentatively pointed out.
A particular attention will be posed to the potential tension (if not conflicts) arising from three different kinds of discourses: that of professionals, of politicians, of management and economic experts.
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