Strategy type (tool, event, training course, etc.)
Cultural and social project

Scope of the practice (local, national, international level)

When did it start?
2014 - ongoing

Associazione "Come un Albero" Onlus

City and country
Rome, Italy

1. Describe your project briefly
The Museum Bistrot Come un Albero is an original project of inclusion, social economy and cultural promotion of disability. In the same place, but at different times, live together a museum about disability (with a specific focus on intellectual disability) and a little restaurant where people with intellectual disability work in the staff. The "Museum of the gaze on disability" is a narrative museum, with an immaterial heritage (life stories, interviews, tales) resulting from several years of ethnographic research in the field. The mission of the museum is to show disability in its cultural dimension, focusing on the different gazes that define it (intellectual disability in particular) and showing the complexities and ambiguities of what is today called – but in a superficial way - inclusion. Beside the critical reading of the Museum there is the proactive approach of "Come un Albero Bistrot". By sharing the same location (at lunchtime the Museum closes while the Bistrot opens) the visitor, during the museum tour, has the opportunity to observe and interact with the staff of the Bistrot, to get to know better the job placement project, to understand some design choices, attempting to build - all together, none excluded - a model of social inclusion.

2. What is the aim of the project? 
Making visitors reflect on their own specific gaze on disability, on their more or less hidden prejudices, inviting them to deconstruct and problematize them; Showing the ambiguities of current and so-called inclusive practices; Promoting a cultural interpretation of disability and making the life stories of people with disabilities and their families a narrative heritage to share, as a common good.

3. Who was involved in designing process?
The idea of the project was born from a PhD research in ethnoanthropology by Stefano Onnis, anthropologist and activist of Come un Albero, and developed thanks to another project of Come un Albero (“Slow fire. Stories of ordinary disability, recipes for social inclusion”) in which were collected stories of parents with sons with intellectual disabilities within a domestic setting: while they were teaching and preparing a recipe, they told about their life story. Over time the project of the Museum Bistrot has taken shape and has been shared not only with parents and sons with intellectual disabilities already involved in Come un Albero, but also with other anthropologists, social workers, Community centres and associations, involving them in the museum exhibition and the legacy of other oral sources.

4. If you could change something, what would you change?
In these years, in order to make the project functional at the level of employment inclusion, we have focused a lot on making the bistrot work effectively. Now the aim is to make the museum ever more a community museum, involving the surrounding area, schools and local institutions more closely related.

5. How do the project impact on civil society? 
As a project born from a cultural anthropology perspective in the field of disability, the aim has always been to interact with a wider context and not only "for the disabled". In this sense the project was immediately thought as a social communication project: both in presence and on social networks, disability is never communicated by pursuing the stigmatizing ambiguities of a mere rhetorical inclusion. People who visit or attend the Museum Bistrot are thus able to really face a process in which everyone should (and must!) be part of it. Students, employees of the local offices, operators and managers of other associations always tell us that "you can feel a good vibration", that the place is welcoming "just like a home" and often this is an opportunity to sit down at a table with visitors, colleagues and clients to talk about practices and actions, about the design work behind it and that there could be in the future.

6. How do you evaluate the project’s impact?
In these years the project, as original and experimental, needed the right time to define, adapt and improve itself. We are working on this, trying to develop a further level in a community perspective, covid-19 allowing... Beyond this period of uncertainty, we are comforted by a more than positive evaluation of the project. It's not easy to describe, because it's full of intertwining levels (rehabilitation and training aspects, job placement and external trainees, social workers and business plans, teaching and museum layout, non-profit management and commercial budget, students, visitors and clients), but we've tested it step by step works!


7. Is there anything else would you like to share with us? 

The Museum Bistrot is temporarily suspended due to the health emergency. The Museum's work with schools is necessarily to be postponed and the Bistrot is not sustainable in an office district where smartworking has taken over. We are thus reviewing some aspects of the project, focusing on a further social goal, opening both the museum and the bistrot to the territory and to social groups made even weaker in this difficult period.



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