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Gaiano, Italy

Ettore Guatelli Museum

A rambling museum which honors the beauty in everyday objects. 

There is no tool too simple nor artifact too mundane that the Ettore Guatelli Museum could not find it a place among its dizzying collections.

Established by the titular elementary school teacher, Ettore Guatelli, the museum collects and artfully displays the seemingly mundane items from everyday Italian life. As Italian professions and culture progressed towards automation in the 20th century, junk stores began filling with discarded artisan’s tools and obsolete household items. Guatelli, seeing relics of his culture and recent past slipping away or heading towards a landfill, began collecting everything from scissors and cobbler’s hammers, to coffee cans and old suitcases. Believing that he would create a material chronicle of Italian life that he could use to teach later generations of children, Guatelli filled his house and surrounding farm complex with accumulated relics.

The rusty and dusty artifacts are displayed for maximum visual impact. The walls and ceilings are covered in fans and geometric groupings of knives, shoe forms, and spades. One room is covered, floor to ceiling in colorful tins, while another has a perfectly faced pile of suitcases lashed into a pendulous wall. Every inch and surface in the museum is home to some new and simple wonder.  

Guatelli would live his entire life at the farm before passing away at the age of 79, adding to his collections right to the end. Now the Ettore Guatelli Museum continues on, attracting visitors from around the world and even offering a special experience for children where they are given the opportunity to fashion a toy from some of the materials on the farm. The everyman’s trash is often this museum’s treasure.