Fondazione Ranieri di Sorbello partner in LoCloud

LoCloud  aims to  enable heritage organisations, particularly of small and medium size, to make their contents accessible via Europeana.

House museums are, usually, small institutions, with no effective aggregators, but with close links to a  particular locality.  They have, therefore, the potential to enrich Europeana with unique digital contents, carrying a strong local  flavour.  In addition, house museums hold collections of significant value which are often little known and not available online.

What is a house museum? According to the established definition adopted by DEMHIST, the international  Committee belonging to the International Council of Museums (ICOM), which serves as a loose umbrella group to this particular kind of museum, “House Museums, range from castles to cottages, from all periods. The interpretation of house museums includes historic, architectural, cultural, artistic and social information”.  There are many categories of House museums: personality  houses (houses of writers, artists, musicians, politicians, etc.), houses of beauty (where the primary reason for a museum is the house as work of art), ancestral homes  and  vernacular houses, such as farms and workers’ lodgings.

DEMHIST has been active in the field of house museums in many ways:  it has focused upon issues of conservation and management; held conferences and issued publications. It aims to develop standards for restoration and security as well as forging links with other museum professionals and visitors of house museums world-wide.

In Italy, a group of house museum professionals has recently come together to  create an Italian House Museum  Committee with the aim of carrying on the good work of DEMHIST.  Our goals are, among others, to create a national and European network of house museums,  collect data for a national survey, provide support to private historical houses wishing to turn  themselves into house museums. While the work of this committee is in its early stages, it is promising to see the interest it has elicited among museum professionals and the larger public. A house museum, even if small, conveys the visitor with a unique and authentic experience of “re-living” history, which often escapes larger and more formal institutions. In particular, at the municipal and regional level, house museums, especially if properly networked and promoted, have the potential of becoming attractive tourist venues.


The House Museum of Palazzo Sorbello

The House Museum of Palazzo Sorbello, an ancestral home, is located in the old town centre of Perugia, Umbria, in a 16th century ‘palazzo’. It is run by a non-profit, family based, Foundation. Most of its collections belonged, in the past, to the aristocratic family of the Marquises Bourbon di Sorbello. Six large rooms, on the first floor of the palazzo, including parts of the old library, were first opened to the public on a permanent basis in 2010. The rooms are a realistic reconstruction of the 17/18° century setting: they are decorated with furniture and works of art from the family collections, which have been in the palazzo for at least 200 years, in some cases much longer.

Carlo III L1000

Carlo III Room - Palazzo Sorbello

The collections, part of which, at any one time, is on display in the house museum, are kept in a state-of-the-art storage area. They include  paintings from 16th to 20th c., some of considerable artistic importance;  over 600 pieces of porcelain by Italian and European manufacturers, including  a precious 18th century table service from the Florentine manufacturer Ginori; about 2,800 engravingsof various subjects and 180 drawing dating to 16th and 20th c.; over 600 embroidered textiles  produced by the School of Embroidery founded in 1904 by Romeyne Robert Ranieri di Sorbello. There are also about 3000 historic photos, including photos of local monuments and historical events, as well as 130 maps, ranging from the 17° to the 20° c.


A precious 18th century table service in porcelain from the Florentine manifacturer Ginori

The Palazzo also hosts an important old family library, initiated  in the late 18th century, which, through continuous acquisitions, now includes about 30.000 items, including 1500 ancient volumes, e.g. the Spaera Mundi manuscript from the 15th century and a 1770 edition of the French Encyclopaedia. It also has an original library catalogue from 1802, accessible now in digital form (complete of images and metadata MAG, with Dublin Core set of metadata elements) from its own website.


A page of the library catalogue from 180

The digitisation of this heritage is meant to stimulate more research on our collections and widen our outreach. Most of the collections have been digitalized at different times, often using various formats. Our institution takes part in LoCloud as a content provider to build networks and gain visibility in Europeana, currently the most important aggregator of Europe’s cultural heritage. Our main goal is to make our digital contents available, with the help of tools and services derived from cloud technologies (e.g. intermediary metadata schemas, lightweight digital library system, geolocation and metadata enrichment tools).

We hope to contribute to LoCloud and to Europeana, while acquiring ourselves new and higher professional standards.

Prof. Ruggero Ranieri

President, Fondazione Ranieri di Sorbello