Thanks to the relationships established during the various activities with foreign partners, SEUM was often invited to represent Italy in intercultural exchanges, particularly in European projects. Its participation mainly regarded the methodology, proposals and planning quality of the cultural, architectural and archaeological heritage, environmental management; communication, mobility and urban system of signs as well as restoration, executive techniques and traditional building materials. SEUM collaborated with Finland, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, France, Israel, Palestine, United States and Iraq. The Middle East area, as we know, represents the origins of our civilization.
The Mediterranean Sea links three continents, where the most important civilizations were born: Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.
The three monotheistic religions, inspired by Prophet Abraham’s message, were born in this strip of land situated between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea- The Middle East has always been an area of commercial and cultural exchanges as well as conflicts and conquests. In 2007 a project, involving several Israeli and Palestinian Municipalities in a desired Route to Peace, has progressed throughout the years and still offers many possible activities to be developed. In fact, SEUM is engaged in training and restoration projects in some countries in the area.
As part of the Urban Scenography Project, coordinated by SEUM on behalf of the Municipality of Arezzo, a large mural painting was proposed, with a technique similar to Fresco. Lime and mineral pigments were applied on a specially made plaster.
This great mural painting recalls a detail from the Battle between Heraclius (the Byzantine Emperor) and Chosroes II (King of Persia), a famous fresco by the Renaissance master Piero della Francesca (1416 – 1492). The fresco is part of the Legend of the True Cross cycle in the Bacci Chapel inside the church of San Francesco in Arezzo). The mural painting measures over eighty meters, covering an area of two hundred square meters and achieved in ten days. The project involves the realization of a monumental fresco on behalf of Seum/ European School of Crafts, It measures about 200 square meters and The work was carried out in two weeks (16 to 29 October 2011), by a group of 16 students from Argentina, France, Germany, Israel, Palestine, Poland, Spain, United States and Italy. The work is part of a project to redevelop the escalator gallery connecting the northern car parks to the historical town above. SEUM invited ten artists from Argentina, Finland, France, Israel, Morocco, Palestine, Spain, United States and Tunisia to work together on the painting, while a group of students of the Arts High School of Arezzo, SEUM’s partner, prepared the dusting cardboards and basic colors.
A big event followed, to celebrate the end of the works, in which the artists and students participated, along with the town’s institutions and passers-by.
In spite of their different cultures and languages, as well as past conflicts in some cases, the artists worked in a growing concord. They later declared that Art abolishes all barriers while Beauty speaks to human souls. Piero della Francesca has therefore linked everyone to a common goal and at the end they all expressed themselves in a common language.
• Université Europeenne Metiérs Finition, Paris (France)
• Turun Ammattiopistosaatio, Turku (Finland)
• Municipality of Akko (Israel)
• Fondacion Laboral Construcion, Asturias (Spain)
• Institut Gaudì Construcciò, Barcellona (Spain)
• Municipality of Nablus (Palestine)
• Institut Superieur Beaux Arts, Tunisi (Tunisia)
• Municipality of S. Miguel de Tucuman (Argentine)
• Extramuros, Tetouan (Morocco)
• Oklahoma University in Arezzo (USA)
• Arts High School of Arezzo (Italy)
Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world, situated near the desert where the Bedouins live. Its historical center represents a most genuine expression of the area’s spirit.
Prophet Abraham’s Mosque, a sacred monument for Jews, Christians and Muslims, is situated in the old town, along with the Sultan’s pools and the most ancient Turkish bath (Hammam) which dates back to the Mameluke period (13th-15th century). The Hammam ceased to be a Turkish bath for several decades and became a museum for some time. However it was later abandoned. Jewish settlements in the Old Town have restricted the Palestinians’ movement and activities.
The Hammam required an urgent restoration, among many difficulties due to the situation marked by conflict.
The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee, a public body commited to safeguarding the local historical heritage, has coordinated the works while SEUM has contributed in the planning, technical management and capacity building of professionals and technicians involved in the complicated and subdivided interventions. The site is not just a museum; it will become a Visitor Center for tourism promotion in Hebron and Southern Palestine. SEUM also contributed to its Visual Communication and the installation of a small museum inside it. Groups of Italian students have participated in the works through on-site transfers; the exchange program was concluded by the study visit of the Palestinian technicians to Italy. The project also involved the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquity of the Palestinian Authority as well as the Polytechnic Institute in Hebron.
As part of the project to restore the Turkish Bath in the old city of Hebron and the creation of a Visitors’ Centre, an additional initiative was presented for the creation of a Mini Museum at the entrance to the Visitors’ Centre, containing archaeological and ethnographic artefacts which over the years have been deposited at the Baths but do not actually originate from this location. These artefacts, of considerable historic and artistic interest, date back to various ages: Canaanite, Roman, Mamluk times, the Crusades, and the period after the Ottoman Empire. They include millstones, funerary urns, gravestones with inscriptions, columns, capitals and items of everyday use.
With the help of three groups of students from an artistic high school, these artefacts were catalogued, restored and rationally arranged inside both exhibition rooms. The project was completed by a catalogue containing explanations and information on the artefacts.
All support structures for artefacts and exhibits, as well as signs and descriptive panel canvases were made in iron tubes and welded metal sheet, conferring a minimalist and uniform image upon interiors.
The PMSP Palestinian Municipality Support Program, managed by the Italian General Consulate in Jerusalem, funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and coordinated by SEUM, aimed to restore the oldest Turkish Bath and open a tourist information centre in the old city of Hebron which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. The four-year project also involved three groups of five students from the Arezzo Artistic High School.
In 2014, the first group catalogued archaeological pieces present in the hammam which were restored by the second group in 2016. In 2017 the third group set up a small museum located in the entrance to the Visitors’ Centre. Some members of these groups from the Multimedia section created photo reports and videos of their mission as well as on Hebron and Palestine. Here is a selection of shots by Enrico Cencini and a montage of footage by Luca Mazzoni, Mattia Buracchi and Martina Briganti.
The town of Tulkarem, situated in the northern part of Palestine, suffers from a state of unease, aggravated by the presence of Israeli settlements and the adjoining separation wall constructed by the Israeli state, as well as the presence of two refugee camps established since 1948, the largest ones in the West Bank. Tulkarem’s location has however rewarded the town throughout history; it is nowadays restoring its few remaining monuments and starting up an effective urban recovery process, in which the SEUM project is one of the first and most important interventions.
The palace of the former Ottoman governorate was in a bad state, used as a warehouse and almost abandoned.
The local administration, together with the contribution of the PMSP Palestinian Municipality Support Program by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, restored the palace, rehabilitating its spaces in a compatible and sustainable way: a visit center, a conference room, exhibition spaces used also for small shows, shops selling local products, a traditional restaurant and guestrooms which can accomodate up to 15 guests.
Italian technicians directed the restoration works and at the same time trained a team of local operators The restoration tried to maintain the signs of times on the building and recover its original look; it has been higly appreciated in Tulkarem and elsewhere.
The Route to peace involves three Israeli cities (Akko, Taibeh and Haifa) and three Palestinian ones (Jericho, Nablus and Tulkarem), united by a virtual and virtuous route that requires co-ordination and participation in shared activities. The intervention aims at enhancing the territory through tourism, typical products as well as cultural and architectural heritage Following a mission in the area, SEUM then organized a restoration route of monumental and architectural heritage, with headquarters in Arezzo, which involved technicians of the participating cities in an intense and passionate journey.
The local institutions, professional orders and enterprises, as well as the Inspectorate of Historic Artistic and Architectural Monuments, all participated in the initiative.
The course included intensive theoretical lessons, practical activities, restoration practises, cultural visits, site visits and workshops. The trainees lived as a group, sharing leisure moments together and this helped to defuse tensions and brought them closer to their trainers.