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F.A.R. From Home: Visit to the Antonio Ratti Foundation

On May 29th, I headed to Charles-de-Gaulle Airport with my small suitcase, ready to catch a flight to Milan. The prospect of returning to Italy filled me with excitement. Stephen, who had been in Lisbon for a few days for intensive archiving work with Belen, was meeting me at our Airbnb in the evening. Our rendez-vous felt like a repeat of our recent encounter in Brooklyn, highlighting the serendipitous nature of our meetings across various cities. 


After dropping off our suitcases, we went to eat at a nearby restaurant. It was meh; I assured Stephen we would find a better place next time – after all, we were in Italy, one of the best place in the world to eat, right? 


We retired early: the following day, we had an early meeting scheduled with the entire Archivorum team (except for Christianna, who was in the USA – we can't wait to meet you in person, Christianna!) at the Antonio Ratti Foundation located in Como. Stephen and I arrived in the city early in the morning. It was my first visit to Como, yet regrettably, our welcome was accompanied by chilly weather, overcast skies, and rain. But, the city's charm managed to shine through the fog. 

Image 1 : Stephen and I arriving in Como.

Image 2 : Stephen and I arriving in Como.



The Foundation is located in a beautiful mansion with a stunning view of the lake. The kind hosts of the Foundation served us coffee and tea to wake us up and warm us.

Image 3 : The Foundation’s entrance

Image 4 : The beautiful view from the Foundation. 


Lorenzo Benedetti, whom we had met a few months earlier in Geneva, joined us around 10 a.m. for a tour of the Foundation's library. The library boasts a rich collection of books primarily focused on textile arts across centuries and geographies. Lorenzo, ever passionate, shared with us the history behind the formation of this book collection, highlighting its most significant elements. We also had the opportunity to ask questions of the librarian, who kindly showcased some incredible books, the oldest dating back to 1490. My personal favorite: a small book cataloging fantastical sea creatures, once part of a German cabinet of curiosities. Absolutely stunning. 

Image 5 : My favorite little treasure!


Lorenzo is the co-director of the "Artist’s Research Laboratory" (CSAV) associated with the Foundation. This one-month artistic residency has been running since 1995, inviting emerging artists to stay in the villa to be trained and inspired by a renowned artist. It is presented as « an experimental platform designed to provoke formal and informal discussions and exchanges among artists of different generations and nationalities. It aims to explore different forms of art-making through non-institutional teaching methods. Between fifteen and twenty young artists from all nationalities will be selected. The participants will attend daily workshops and seminars run by Ibon Aranberri and guests. » We learned that the Archivorum team will have the opportunity to return to Como in July to present our archival work to the resident artists and participate in the residency activities, including the launch of the annual book by the CSAV. Let's hope Como will be warm and sunny when we’ll be back. 🌞


Image 6 : Lorenzo Benedetti showing us a poster he commissionned to Nil Yalter


If I had to highlight one moment from this visit, it would be the presentation of the Digital Caveau. The Digital Caveau is an online platform initially run by two women (and now three!) that makes Antonio Ratti’s rich textile collection accessible to the public through a digitization and cataloging project. This project is the result of many years of layered studies aimed at providing users with a comprehensive picture of the holdings, offering an up-to-date and versatile tool for work and research. Ultimately, the Digital Caveau is an almost perfect example, I dare say, of the future Archivorum database. The archivists and creators behind this superb tool showed us the "behind the scenes" of such a database, explaining the relationships established between each element, the data not visible to visitors, and their organization system. The three of them do an amazing, methodical, organized, and very efficient job.


Image 7 : The amazing gadget used by the archivists at the Foundation. 

Image 8 : View of the Digital Caveau 


After this impressive presentation (I should note that the chief responsible was surprised by our curiosity; she told us it was the very first time people were specifically interested in their work! Indeed, I believe many forget that online archives are the result of meticulous work and that one or more humans are necessarily behind it, correcting, supervising, or manually adding new data!), Stephen, Arianna, and I had a debriefing of our respective progress and impressions of the Digital Caveau. We took the opportunity to compare our respective categories – those that will structure the future Archivorum database, and we quickly reached a consensus. These are fairly broad categories (I will tell you more about them next time) that adapt to the archives of Belen, Babs, and Nil. Minor adaptations for each artist can be made, but we now have the main framework in place.

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