A show at the Uffizi gallery in Florence. | Photo: ANSA/Claudio Giovannini
A show at the Uffizi gallery in Florence. | Photo: ANSA/Claudio Giovannini

Migrants are working as museum guides in Florence, to talk about the city's and Italy's heritage. The hope is that by reinterpreting the city's culture for visitors they will improve their own integration. That's all thanks to a project called Amir.

Florence has always attracted tourists and visitors from around the world to its myriad of museums, art galleries and Renaissance culture. The whole city vibrates with history and beauty. Now the city authorities have decided to use that rich culture to aid integration for the many migrants who have made the city home. They have come up with the idea that culture can actually encourage the process of integration.

Migrants in Florence are becoming tour guides in the city's museums, for Italians and foreigners, thanks to the Amir project, which in Arabic means ''young prince''. It is also an Italian acronym for welcoming, museums, inclusion, and relate. The initiative aims to look ''at our culture [through] the eyes of foreign immigrants in Italy'', the city of Florence said in a statement, ''inviting [visitors and migrants] to cross the threshold of museums and to take hold of a new history and identity and describe how they see, read, hear and interpret our heritage''. 

Birth of the project

The project is based on the conviction that ''culture [encourages] well-being and integration." For this reason, the museums Musei Civici Fiorentini, (The Florentine Civic Museum)  Musei della Città di Fiesole, (The Museum for the city of Fiesole) Stazione Utopia (Utopia Station) hosted inside the museum at the Opera del Duomo, the Museo degli Innocenti (Museum of the Innocents) and the Fondazione Primo Conti (Foundation Primo Conti) in Fiesole planned a project aimed at creating a dialogue between cultural institutions and migrants while encouraging foreigners to be more active. 

One of the first steps in the project involved two days of training for museum operators across Tuscany in order to study historic and artistic themes connected to the story and identity of migrants, together with the characteristics of immigration in Tuscany and Florence. 

Once trained, the group started taking foreigners on visits to the museums taking part. They organized specific activities for the groups too to get them more involved in the exhibits. The project has enrolled 32 migrants on to a course giving them detailed knowledge of history, art and language to enable them to work as guides for groups of Italians and foreigners visiting museums.

Let the tours begin

The full guided tours will begin in the spring of 2019.The new museum ''ambassadors'' who hail from Afghanistan, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Gambia, Morocco, Cameroon, Colombia, Italy, Nigeria, Venezuela, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Peru, Ghana, Romania, Guinea and Pakistan will offer visits in Italian and in their mother tongue starting on December 2, 2018, and continuing through the spring of 2019. 

''This is a project for integration that makes those living in the city active participants of social change and, most of all, it is a cultural experiment that gives us Italians - westerners and Eurocentric - the dizziness of disorientation and the vitality of discovery'', stressed a spokesperson for the city of Florence.

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