Ashby Exhibition

Sulmona’s, Polo Museale dell’Annunziata recently opened its doors to welcome visitors into its newly refurbished viewing rooms. To celebrate the new look it is hosting an important photographic retrospective.

The exhibition, called ‘Ashby e l’Abruzzo’ is a selection of photographs taken by the archaeologist Thomas Ashby.

Raffaella Giottoni opened the exhibition telling the gathered crowd, “These newly digitised photographs are an intriguing look at a lifestyle forever lost.”
Ashby’s photographs, taken between 1901 and 1923 during his six visits to the Abruzzo region, are a reflection his interest in the traditional folk culture of Italy. He devoted many years observing the rituals and festivals in many Italian towns, building up an extensive library of notes and photographs. It wasn’t uncommon for him to stop parish priests to gather information.

Ashby had a keen sense of capturing the moment, and realising history is a transient thing and too soon forgotten, he devoted his life to recording it on camera. The collection could be said to depict real life: the world of farmers and markets, of local people and traditional customs. It’s a valuable collection of intimate portraits set against the medieval backdrop of the villages and towns around L’Aquila; the capital of Abruzzo.

Following the earthquake in April 2006, visitors to the exhibition have felt the photographs are a poignant reminder of how L’Aquila once was.

The selected pictures; which come from the archive of over eight thousand belonging to the British School in Rome, are displayed in and among the museums other artefacts; which include an extensive display of traditional Abruzzese dress and its recent acquisition of local relics.

Acclaimed Italian anthropologist, Franco La Cecla said, “Thomas Ashby is our memory,” he also pointed out that many of the people captured in these images are looking directly at the camera. Maybe, as Ashby was documenting their daily lives, they in turn were studying this man who was distinctly foreign to them, and by doing so unknowingly created a fascinating awareness of the anthropological process itself.

The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 09.00 – 13.00 and 15.30 – 19.30 and admission is free. Ashby e l’Abruzzo will be on display until September 18, after which it moves to the Museo Archelogico Nazionale d’Abruzzo in Chieti.

Published Casoli News September 2011 © Barry Lillie

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