Can an archive of memories provide a way forward?

Mountain Community of Camonica Valley

The small communities of Valle Camonica, in the heart of the Lombard Alps, have also been highly affected by Covid-19, which tragically led to the deaths of numerous elderly people, silent guests isolated in hospitals and retirement homes.

The time of our community was suddenly suspended, stopped, and the protectors of our memory, the elderly, were desperately protected by isolation and incommunicability.

For most of them, their homes became dens of a mandatory hibernation, a temporary, but that doesn’t mean less difficult, imprisonment for people who are strongly attached to history and daily-based habits. These habits are now missing: churches are closed, festivals are either cancelled or postponed, meals are eaten in solitude, fields and forests are abandoned and not looked after, the community can’t get together to accompany the dead.

The traditional quinquennial festival Madonna Grande di Demo was moved to 2021 and so were the Easter celebrations. Facing this situation, we are all repositioning time and space, rethinking what is personal and what is public, to try and write new rules to stay together in a different way, recreating a new space for our community.

It is not easy: we are digging up the past to look for the deep roots of our cohabitation. For this reason we have opened our memory archive to the public, which we have promoted online and on our social networks. The archive is full of memories, black and white images, stories and testimonies that give us an irreparable sense of nostalgia, but also pride and fear of looking ahead.

Some of these elements are inventorying inside the Lombardy Register (REIL), developed and managed by the Ethnography and Social History Archive of Lombardy Region (Lombardy Section).

Therefore, we try to imagine the future, we try to look way beyond our current existence and every gesture seems to be designed by some technological device, carried out according to some strict algorithmic disciplines, bigger than us.

There is no remedy other than acting and starting to take care of objects and spaces, to bring them to life and transform them once again.

We will find inanimate matter looking for some kind of sense and measure; but we will also find the undeniable presence of the other. Then, and it will certainly happen very soon, we will be able to inhabit the new space for our community, which we have already designed and narrated.

Maraea-Patrimonio from Valle Camonica Valle dei Segni on Vimeo.

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