ilCartastorie is the museum of the Historical Archive of the Banco di Napoli. It is an innovative project of enhancement and knowledge of the biggest bank archive in the world: it collects the documents of the public banks of Naples since 1573 until today. It represents a unique historical source for retracing the social and economic development in Naples and all of southern Italy in the modern and contemporary age.
The archive is owned by a foundation, the Fondazione Banco di Napoli and is its most valuable asset. The Italian public banks, after the privatization, were transformed into private bodies often sold to larger national and international banking groups, while their cultural heritage, made of archives, collections of artworks and so on was transferred to public-owned foundations. The aim of these foundations is to use profits from banking activities for social and cultural projects in the area served by the bank. This is exactly what happened in Naples with its public bank, Banco di Napoli.
ilCartastorie is an ambitious project, because it successfully handles the opening to the public of a particular site: an archive. The knowledge of archives beyond their traditional conservation and research purposes has recently become a major challenge, in order to change their image as closed (and sometimes boring) places and give them a better economic support through paid guided tours. ilCartastorie has the goal to transform the Historical Archive of the Banco di Napoli into an interactive museum. “Interactive” does not only mean the use of digital technology, but also adapting the archive as a venue for events and performances.
The museum offers many kinds of activities to cover the needs and expectations of a broadest possible public: from traditional didactics for schools to more unconventional (at least for archives) actions, like residencies for artists and musicians, lectures, theater performances and more. ilCartastorie opened only one year ago but has received a lot of praise and awards, including the 2017 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Award in the category “Education, Training and Awareness-Raising”. ilCartastorie were given the award at the European Heritage Awards ceremony which took place during the Europa Nostra Annual Congress in Turku, Finland.
The archive and the museum are located in the headquarters of the Fondazione Banco di Napoli, in the historic centre of Naples near the medieval Castel Capuano, the second oldest castle in the city. The Renaissance Palazzo Ricca and Palazzo Cuomo preserve hundreds of thousands of documents, located on 80 km of shelf units distributed in 330 rooms. These, born as static witnesses, are transformed into dynamic resources for the community thanks to the creativity of the museum management and staff.