Museums and Shrines. Reflecting on Relationship and Challenges

Bagnoli, Lorenzo and Capurro, Rita (2021) Museums and Shrines. Reflecting on Relationship and Challenges. International Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage, 9 (4). ISSN 2009-7379

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The aim of this paper is to introduce an original method of analysis for a kind of contemporary tourism positioned between two different traditional tourist praxis, notably the visits to a museum and to a pilgrimage destination. The case studies provided are focused on the Italian museums of shrine, where it is difficult to ascertain who, among the visitors, can be considered cultural tourist, pilgrim, or both of them. Nonetheless, the tourist flows and networks created by the Italian museums of shrines can become interesting and promising key-elements of territorial development. Four case studies have been chosen among the Italian museums of shrine, all with some features in common: the shrines are dedicated to the Holy Virgin; the museums expose different types of objects; both the museums and the shrines are of little dimensions; they are representative of different Northern Italian regions.
They are notably: the Shrine of the Madonna delle Grazie in Garessio (Piedmont), where the Historical Museum is deeply linked with the tradition of worship of the shrine itself; the Shrine Madonna del Bosco in Imbersago (Lombardy), where on the contrary the Shrine’s Museum is only slightly connected with the place of worship; the Shrine Madonna della Misericordia in Genoa (Liguria), the Speleological Museum of which has assumed the pivotal role of connecting different tourist aspects of the territory; and finally the Santuario delle Grazie in Rimini (Emilia Romagna), where the Missionary Museum is not of the same property of the shrine, raising interesting problems about the ownership of the museums of shrines. Each of these case studies is meaningful not only for the different ways in which a shrine and a museum can be connected, but also for the appeal that a religious site can have towards pilgrims or religious tourists or both. The method here illustrated makes possible to verify as well other kinds of connections between other institutions and other experiences of tourism, in order to develop precise actions to enhance elsewhere the tourist experience.

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