Florence urgently needs to preserve our craft knowledge!
Unlike academic or ‘book’ knowledge, the knowledge used by craftspeople is ‘situated’ – it only exists in the ways they perform their tasks, and the memory of how their skills were acquired. As this knowledge is situated in the body and mind of an individual and rarely written down, it is very fragile. When the craftsperson dies, the knowledge is lost, and all that remains is the ‘trace’ – a beautiful object. In the case of some crafts, such as cooking or gardening, even the trace may not survive.
In a world in which many activities are now mechanised, crafts knowledge is at risk of disappearing, as are the crafts themselves. This project aims at the preservation of crafts knowledge, and the promotion of the importance of the crafts, in order to encourage young people to continue entering the crafts field. These crafts include traditional crafts such as bookbinding, shoemaking and gilding, as well as less likely crafts such as butchery, cooking and gardening. The archive will consist of audio recordings, video recordings and a written transcription, available online in downloadable digital format. This archive is a means to conserve communicate and promote the crafts as a vital sector of the Florentine – and the global – economy.
In the coming months, a catalogue of craftspeople active in Florence will be compiled by the crafts organisations such as Confesercenti, schools, and local informants. An awareness campaign will alert craftspeople to the project, after which a project team will arrange interviews with the individual craftspeople. Finally, the interviews will be edited, transcribed and put online.
This preliminary selection of images, taken by the world-renowned photographer James O’Mara at the initiative of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, represents a first step towards a future archive of transcribed interviews, videos and still images of Florentine craftspeople.
Do you know Florentine craftspeople? Add them to the list!