Fondazione Ansaldo

Fondazione Ansaldo

The Archival Experience of the Ansaldo Foundation

For over thirty years the Ansaldo Foundation, first as Archivio Storico Ansaldo, now known as Fondazione Ansaldo, has been carrying forward its commendable work of salvaging and safeguarding a significant documentary heritage made up of various types of materials. Initially, the objective was to avoid losing the documentation representing the collective memory of Ansaldo.
As time passed, however, the activities to gather, reorganise, preserve and make the company's technical, design, administrative and accounting documentation available to academics was progressively extended to other companies in the Ansaldo Group, eventually reaching the point where it also involved external yet significant companies in the Genoese and Italian economy. The sensitivity developed towards archival heritage immediately also took in other types of material, thus allowing audiovisual documents, photographs, films and negatives to be recovered which were then organised into individual archives, catalogued, preserved and made available to academics.

The Liguria Archival Superintendency immediately recognised the cultural significance of the Ansaldo Archive, declaring it to be of particularly important historical interest as far back as 1979. Various other archive collections subsequently acquired, catalogued and today preserved by the Foundation have been declared to be cultural assets, highlighting their specific value for research into economic, industrial and social history. The “particularly important historic interest” and therefore the cultural value is not, nor could not be, limited to the strictly archival documentation, but also concerns and includes all photographic, cinematographic and audiovisual material which the Ansaldo Foundation has recovered and taken into its archives over the years.
The knowledge of the importance and value of the audiovisual documents, as “material evidence with value of civilisation”, has to date been acquired not only by the academic and history communities but also by the discipline which defines and protects Italy's cultural assets. Current legislation (Italian Legislative Decree 42/2004 “Cultural Assets Code”) generally includes among cultural assets “tangible and intangible goods with particularly important artistic, historic, archaeological or ethnoanthropological interest”, specifying that “rare and prestigious photographs, with their corresponding negatives and matrices, cinematographic films and audiovisual material in general” are also cultural assets (article 10, para. 4 e). These materials are taken into consideration and protected above all in relation to the historical interest which they hold (being “rare and prestigious”).

Indeed, it is understandable how outside of the artistic or aesthetic value of a film or documentary, as time passes the images and any sounds recorded on various media increasingly become an important historic source, an object of study which can be investigated and interrogated from various points of view.
It is a given fact that images, even more so when accompanied by audio, have an impact in our society, a communication capacity much higher than the simple written word. The images of a busy workshop, film of a production process or a company outing, the launch of the ship, a product advertisement, a historical documentary on any topic allow us to “perceive” the past, so to speak, immediately invoking a different reality and justifying the significant conservation and administrative commitment and great expense necessary to correctly run a film library. Nevertheless, while many institutes which preserve films and other audiovisual media have custody of rare and genuinely interesting archive collections, they do not always offer the possibility to examine the archival material as well as the cinematographic, audiovisual and photographic material concerning a company, which gives it context and can provide precious indications for studying, understanding and interpreting the images. The Ansaldo Foundation makes various kinds of documents available to academics, not only traditional hardcopies but also film, photographic and audiovisual media, as well as collections of objects and manufactured products, thus providing greater possibilities for further investigation and research and subsequent handing back and dissemination.

Over the years, the Ansaldo Foundation has expanded its film library both with material belonging to archives from the world of business and the economy, gradually acquired both through donations, loans and purchases of cinema and audiovisual documents. Problems have come to light and then been solved relating to the preservation of various different media (which are often extremely fragile), their filing, cataloguing, management and consultation, refining a highly specialised technical knowledge which has allowed documents running the risk of being destroyed or forgotten to be safeguarded and made available.

For those with an interest in 19th and 20th century Italian economic, industrial and social history, as well as those concerned with the protection of archives, the Ansaldo Foundation has long been a beacon, a key player in the Ligurian and Italian landscape both for aspects relating to the recovery and preservation and its initiatives in promoting and exploiting this kind of heritage. A recent example is the collaboration with the General Directorate for Archives to create the business archives portal (, but we can just as well highlight valuable and ambitious initiatives such as the publication in a dedicated series of the inventories of some of the most important archives kept by the Foundation (Finmare, Gerolamo Gaslini, Francesco Manzitti, Perrone) and other bodies (Archivio Oto Melara).

Francesca Imperiale
Head of the Ligurian Archival Superintendency


Archives and Collections

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