Lecture for the Fourth international conference of Peace Museums - Oostende (Belgium), 5-9 May 2003. (The text was updated on March 2007). By Vittorio Pallotti
The posters included in the first ''Exhibition of posters against war and weapons escalation, for peace and nonviolence education'' (this was the first name of the posters collection) witness, above all, the antimilitaristic and nonviolent struggle for disarmament that has been active in Europe since 1979.
The original nucleus of posters (about 150) was collected by myself during the mass demonstrations in Bonn, Rome, Amsterdam, Geneva, etc., that were held between 1981 and 1983. Others were collected during a number of pacifist initiatives organized in Italy. Subsequently, both individual and organized groups contributed to the collection, bearing witness to the growing articulation and diffusion of the pacifist ideal in our country.
At this time the idea arose of holding a public exhibition, not simply as a demonstration of ideas, but more specifically as the vehicle of a message that, taken as a whole, the collection explores and expresses with clarity and profundity.
I think it is useful to know this experience because it represents how, starring from a simple and spontaneous action (collecting a poster and keeping it under the bed, as I did), one can build over time a significant action from a cultural and political point of view.
The collection is divided into 12 sections: 1. International 2. Italian 3. Bologna 4. Conscientious objection to military expenses, for the nonviolent popular defense (the theme of protest against military spending. This was felt to be of prime importance in the nonviolent, anti-militaristic italian movement) 5. Ex Jugoslavia 6. The Gulf wars 7. Anti-mine Campaign. 8. Ecology-Peace-Environment 9. Third World-International Cooperation-Human Rights 10. Pencils for peace 11.Posters reproduction 12. Hand-made posters.
The first three sections and sections 8-9-10 are divided into several topics (see: ''The structure of the I.P.P.D.C 's Archive''). Each topic has a number of posters varying from just a few to over a hundred. Many of them have a peculiar story: there is for example a poster which shows signs of damagement after being ripped off the wall, another one which was incriminated for offense towards Army. The examples can be many. The oldest posters of the collection are Italian and were published in 1961.
Of course, the collection represents only a small part of the vast and variegated pacifist archipelago.
Our first exhibition (displaying about 200 pieces) was held in Bologna in March 1985, few months after the first Italian peace- poster's exhibition (in Trento, Autumn 1984). The second and the third (about 400 pieces each) was held in Bologna the two following years (1986 and 1987) and they were accompanied by a sound track of pacifist songs, as well as several films and videos. The exhibition value is not only historical and cultural, but educational as well. In fact, exhibitions are visited by many school groups of all ages.
From its very start, the Exhibition has always been itinerant. From 1985 until now, the posters were displayed in more than 200 local exhibitions organized by political, cultural, social, religious groups, local Authorities and Universities in different parts of Italy and in Switzerland.
Today, the posters are more than 3400: probably, the biggest pacifist-posters collection in the world. Of these, 1300 are catalogued and protected by two semirigid plastic sheets, with holes on top for hanging them. All posters are photographed in slides, to prevent any possible loss.
A number of side initiatives have grown that accompany the itinerant Exhibition: expositions of pacifist books and gadgets, lectures, meetings, slide-and films projections, theatre shows, concerts, celebrations.
Moreover, posters, leaflets, press releases attracted tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands people. Many publications accompanied the itinerant Exhibition and took inspiration from the posters: booklets, post-cards, graphical, historical and semiotic essays. Some of them were published on the first catalogue of the Exhibition, whose title is ''Perché ?'' (''Why ?''), in the 1987.
The posters were (and are) acquired in a more or less casual way. They represent only a very small fraction of the pacifist posters that have been printed, the tip of a very big iceberg.
The collection, as a whole, consists of subjects representing different ideas and activities of the various contemporary pacifist movements: conscientious objection and civil service, nonviolent popular defense, peace and economy, disarmament and hunger, peace education, peace marches … Different lines of thought are represented (from catholicism to anarchy, from communism to nonviolence, …) and this pluralism is valued as both a contemporary attitude and as a way to preserve historical memory.
This work wouldn't have been possible without the crucial contribution of the militants of the Association ''Antimilitarismo e Disobbedienza nonviolenta - A.D.N.'' (''Antimilitarism and nonviolent disobedience'') of Bologna. Since 1984 tens of people, all volunteers, working with more or less continuous commitment, made the Exhibition larger and more vital. In 1993 the International Peace Poster Documentation Center - I.P.P.D.C - was created.
In 1994 our friend, prof Tonino Drago, from Neaples, now teaching in the Deparment of Peace Sciences at the University of Pisa, invited us, starting from our posters' Archive, to create in Bologna the first Italian peace museum. We accepted the idea and now the project housed in Casalecchio di Reno, a town 7 km near Bologna. However, in december 2000, the first italian peace museum was created in Paternò, near Catania (Sicily). The museum was presented in Bologna in October 2000 at the Exhibition ''50 years of peace on the walls of Europe: 1950-2000'' at the presence of prof. Peter Van Den Dungen and of a delegation of Nuernberg's Peace Museum.
The Exhibition ''50 years of peace…'' and its catalogue are our most important initiative. An initiative that does'nt arise from nothing. It was preceded by almost four big expositions, after the first three in Bologna:
1991, Massalombarda (Ravenna). Edited by the graphic designers Marco Lega and Antonio Tabanelli, the exposition consisted of 80 posters particulary significant from a graphic and aesthetic point of view. The exhibition was shown in a nice, restored baroque church.
1993, Pavullo nel Frignano (Modena). Upon initiative of the town council, a big peace- posters exhibition was shown in Palazzo Ducale. Contemporary, with the title ''Years of peace'', many initiatives on the themes of peace were organized and many schools visited the exposition.
1996-97, Bologna and Modena. With the economic contribution of Regione Emilia-Romagna and in cooperation with ''Gruppo libero teatro'' of Bologna the project ''Il seme della pace'' (''The seed of peace'') was realized, consisting of a series of initiatives (peace-posters exhibitions, lectures, theatre workshops for schools, recitals) which took place for several months in five towns located in the provinces of Bologna and Modena.
February 2000, Catania (Sicily). In cooperation with the association ''Stop the war'' of Catania, and within a series of initiatives titled ''Towards biennal of nonviolence'', the largest peace-posters exhibition was realized. The title was ''Fortezze di pace'' (''Fortresses of peace''): 480 posters were distributed in seven different and integrated expositions scattered in seven centers of Catania province. Each exposition was shown in a normann castle or in a borbonic prison.
Finally, I would like to mention the most important poster exhibition: '' 50 years of peace on the walls of Europe: 1950-2000''. This itinerant exhibition was realized with the economic contribution of the Committee ''Bologna 2000'' created to celebrate, with a series of other initiatives, the 'year 2000'. Bologna, representing one of the 9 european 'towns of the culture', was entrusted the theme of 'communication'. Given such a theme, the I.P.P.D.C. couldn't certainly be missing.
Work in preparation for the event began in 1998 and was concluded two years later, with the publication of the book ''50 years of peace in Europe (1950-2000): events and images'', which includes a selection of 100 posters from our Archive. The selection was not easy. It was necessary to decide criteria and operating methods: both are described in the book. The book also contains much more information and discussions. You can buy it at our table, where you can also find series of post-cards reproducing posters from our collection.
Over tha last four years, the CDMPI organized other important initiatives:
February 2003: promoted by “Carnevale di Viareggio” Foundation, the exhibition “50 years of peace in Europe” was hosted, during the Carnival, in a new large room of the “Carnival city”, where floats are prepared for the traditional parade. The exhibition was visited and commented by school children with drawings.
November 2003: the itinerant exhibition “Il seme della nonviolenza” (The nonviolence seed) was exhibited at the “Casa della solidarietà – Solidarity house ‘A. Dubcek’ ” in Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna) and was accompanied by didactic units for students and explicative texts.
February-March 2004: in Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna), at the “Casa della Solidarietà” and in S.Lazzaro di Sàvena (Bologna), by “E.Mattei” high school, was given the exhibition “Champions of Peace – the first 100 years of the Nobel Peace Prize”, organized by he Museum for Peace of Bradford (England).
April-May 2004: some municipalities of the provincial council of Bologna hosted posters exhibitions of our Center on various themes: “Resistance – Constitution – Peace”, “Ecology –Peace- Environment”, …
December 2004: exhibition “Literature and Peace”, displayed in occasion of the inauguration of the “Casa della Conoscenza – Knowledge House” of Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna), hosting the new town library and a cultural and multimedia Center
February 2005: “The nonviolence seed” was exposed in the Pisa townhall. Then, in a COOP supermarket where visitors were numerous and very interested.
Summer 2005: the posters catalogation was completed. At that time, there were 2,813 posters, a thousand of which plastified and photographed.
17-18 March 2006: inauguration of the “Casa per la Pace ‘La Filanda’- House for peace ‘The Spinning Mill’ “ in Casalecchio di Reno (Bologna), the new seat of CDMPI. In the House are hosted also the association “Percorsi di pace- Paths of peace”, the “Banca del tempo – Time Bank” with a solidarity market and a fair-trade shop. On that occasion was presented the posters exhibition “For peace: archives, houses, centers, laboratories, museums, schools, universities”, together with the exhibition “Art for peace from Assisi”. Italian (Nanni Salio, Lucetta Sanguinetti, Angela Dogliotti, Antonietta Malleo, Zap e Ida and others) and foreign experts (Peter Van Den Dungen, Joyce Apsel, Birgitta Meier) lectured on the themes.
September 2006: the new posters exhibition “Nuclear weapons and atomc disarmament” was presented, for the first time, in the town hall of Bologna.
February 2007: inauguration of the posters exhibition “Ecology-Peace-Environment” at the “Casa per la Pace ‘La Filanda’ in Casalecchio di Reno.
Over the years, posters were exposed in a variety of places, from municipalities to schools. Exhibitions in schools allowed students to produce, with the teachers’ supervision, writings, videos, CD, drawings, posters and other manufacts.
From 2002, CDMPI is a member of the “International network of museums for Peace” and, after participating to the international meeting (Lucerne, 2002) and the 4th and 5th Conference of the Network (Oostende-Belgium, 2003; Guernika-Lumo, 2005), began a cooperation with European (Bradford-UK; Wolfsegg-A; Nuernberg-D) and extra-European (Samarkand-Uzbekistan; New York-USA; Kochi-Japan) institutions.
In conclusion, we think it is possible to create elsewhere in the world other projects like ours. We are ready to cooperate with them, for example by selling or exchanging posters of which we own multiple copies, or by sharing with others our archives and our experience.