The museum that spills out: reflecting on Raffaello visita le carceri di Salerno from the perspective of the ‘expanded museum’

Scarso, Jacek Ludwig (2024) The museum that spills out: reflecting on Raffaello visita le carceri di Salerno from the perspective of the ‘expanded museum’. In: Progetto d'arte sociale a cura di Michele Citro "Raffaello visita le carceri di Salerno": atti dei convegni. Paguro Edizioni, Mercato S. Severino (SA), Italy, pp. 261-267. ISBN 9791280259714


In a digital world, in a context where we are rightly exposing historic biases related to imperialism, colonialism and the equation of wealth with cultural power, all this whilst treading pandemics, cost of living crises and global threats, the role of museums continues to be fraught with existential questions: what is a museum’s use and relevance nowadays? How necessary is a museum and is its perceived necessity shared by many or simply by the privileged few?

This contribution was written to reflect on the project Raffaello visita le carceri di Salerno (“Raffaello visits the prisons of Salerno”), created by Michele Citro in collaboration with Fondazione della Comunità Salernitana Ets. The project entailed the exhibition, hosted at the Brig. Antonio Caputo Prison in Salerno, Italy (2023), involving fourteen inmates in a participatory project, through which they temporarily became museum guides for the general public invited to visit this work.

The articles draws on the notion of the ‘expanded museum’, a phrase originally coined in the 1970s through the work of museologists like Georges Henry Rivière and Hugues de Varine and of architect Fredi Drugman (Zucca, 2022), broadly entailing the idea of a museum experience that is not confined by the familiar display cases or museum walls that we are generally accustomed to. The article further argues that this project functions, beyond its literal display of the historical artefact in question, as a significant gesture of contemporary public art. Accordingly, it transcends the private domain of the work inside a building, and just as contemporary public art aims to do, it shifts our perception of the public’s role, no longer as passive recipient, but as active interlocutor with it, as observed by Hein (2006). And as Hein points out, this public art mission is exactly what a museum should strive for.

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