Mind travelling with the Museum of Geography during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The MoHu Centre’s social impact activities are carried out in connection with the Museum of Geography of the DiSSGeA Department. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum has found creative ways to connect in the current shared condition of immobility by inviting people to re-imagine their mobilities.

Mind travelling with the Museum of Geography

Geography comes alive in places, landscapes, travel and encounters. During the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the staff of the Museum of Geography, which has been closed since the end of February 2020, wanted to counteract the imposed immobility with an original initiative designed to open the horizons of our minds and move through stories and emotions.

‘Instead of looking nostalgically at the world we have left‘, comments prof. Mauro Varotto, scientific director of the Museum of Geography, ‘we decided to take advantage of what this difficult situation offers: the opportunity to think over our personal geographies, to recall distant geographies, places we visited and photographed perhaps too hastily, returning to the repository of our emotions related to places to make them live again and share them’.

The initiative is identified by the hashtag #LaMiaMenteViaggia (literally: my mind travels) and consists of sharing the places of our own geographical mental explorations. Sparked by the staff of the Museum of Geography, the initiative is addressed to those who, despite the closure, have continued, if only in their mind, to travel to reach the places in their heart.

Every day since the 3rd of March, 2020, educators, teachers and staff of the Department of Historical, Geographical and Ancient Sciences of the University of Padua have shared personal stories of public and private places on the museum’s Facebook and Instagram profiles, accompanied by a photograph and geographic coordinates.

In late May, 2020, the #LaMiaMenteViaggia campaign shared their 100th post, concluding a journey that visited many places in the Veneto region, 15 other regions of Italy, 35 states in all continents and 2 planets (in addition to Earth and Mars).

The initiative has reached over 150 thousand people through social media networks. ‘The initiative was liked’, confessed Giovanni Donadelli, curator of the museum and the initiative, ‘confirming yet again the power of storytelling and showing that there is no lack of stories of precious places, but rather the time on our part to listen to them and savour them. During this quarantine, time has dilated, also reinvigorating our geographies of the heart’.

Everyone can read the stories posted within the initiative by looking for the hashtag #LaMiaMenteViaggia on Facebook and Instagram.

DISCOVER THE MUSEUM OF GEOGRAPHY AT DISSGEA
Lesbos (Greece)

Street Geography

Site-specific art installation at the railway station of Padua

The Street Geography. Drawing cities for a sustainable future project stemmed from the collaboration between several geographers at the DiSSGeA (University of Padova) and the Progetto Giovani Office (Cabinet of the Mayor of the Municipality of Padova) with the aim of encouraging the dialogue between scientific research, art-practice, and the citizens of Padova. At the foundation of the project was the idea that academic knowledge should contribute to the conceptualization and realization of more meaningful and sustainable cities. The three keywords of the project, namely Neighborhoods, Mobility and Waterways, were intended not only as geographical concepts that contain some of the most significant contemporary urban phenomena and dynamics at the local and global levels; they were also used as the key concepts around which the artists have developed their site-specific installations to create a public art exhibition that crossed the city of Padova from north to south, along the tramline’s route, from September to October 2018.

Together with the curators at the Progetto Giovani Office, each artist collaborated with a geographer, who provided reflections on the key concept and the associated site. Engaged in this partnership, the three artists developed their own site narration: Fabio Roncato with a diffused installation titled At the Antipodes There is the Ocean for the Arcella neighborhood, Mónica Bellido Mora for the railway station, Caterina Rossato with an installation called Distances for the Lungargine Scaricatore at Bassanello. These works aimed to question the ways that the people live in cities, the issues of co-existence, and the meanings of change, movement and relationships in our shared and highly mobile urban spaces. In particular, A STATION OF STORIES: MOVING NARRATIONS was the site-specific art installation realised in the railway station of Padua by illustrator and cartoonist Mónica Bellido Mora (Mexico City, 1990), in collaboration with the Italian publishing house BeccoGiallo. The railway station functioned as a stage for a comic-strip story with the station itself as the protagonist. In Mónica’s story the building comes alive; as a non-human narrator, it speaks with its own voice and tells citizens, commuters and tourists about its daily repetitive, but also ever-changing, routine. The comic author’s illustrated panels invited visitors to perceive the station in new ways, focusing on the interconnection of mobile routes, existences and stories that cross in the same space. The story’s point of view made possible to consider the multiple values of transit spaces, interpreted as sentient beings that contain narratives, which are multilayered in space and time.

Thus, the railway station was transformed into a place of new relationships and experience, awareness and imagination.

The Street Geography scientific project was realised by Giada Peterle, Tania Rossetto and Mauro Varotto, University of Padova, DiSSGeA. The curatorial project was curated by Stefania Schiavon and Caterina Benvegnù, Progetto Giovani Office, Municipality of Padova. The project was funded by the Erasmus Mundus joint Master in Sustainable Territorial Development – STeDe, the AIIG Veneto, the GAI – Giovani Artisti Italiani.


VenetoNight 2019 – Researchers’ Night

Back in ancient Greece, the public space of the agorà was the one assigned to ‘movement’ and ‘public speech’, two words which aptly describe also the DiSSGeA participation in the Veneto Night 2019, an event which since 2005 allows the researchers of our University to present to the Paduan citizenship the results and methods of their research.

The goal of VenetoNight – Researchers’ Night is to bring the general public – and in particular kids and families – closer to the academic world, also by showing the sometimes unexpected impact of scientific research into everyday life; on the evening of September, 27th 2019, the DiSSGeA stand located in the internal courtyard of the Palazzo del Bo was thus animated by numerous laboratories organized by the researchers of our Department.

Many activities focused on the broad theme of mobility, the key word of the “Mobility and the Humanities” Project of Excellence which is animating much of the Department’s research since 2018; they included:

A game on the Latin vocabulary of travel, which through various recreational activities offered a first approach to the theme of mobility in the ancient world and to the transformations that led Latin to evolve in Romance languages;


A video on the mobility of Padua University students in space, time and knowledge from 1222 to 2022:


an interactive live drawing on Moving across cities and comics, in which the medium of graphic novel offered a chance to cooperatively draw maps of ideal – but perhaps not impossible – future cities;


And a workshop on haptic changing landscapes, in which the dynamic and collaborative construction of clay models allowed younger kids to reflect on the signs and traces impressed by humans on landscape.

In a world crossed by ever more intense flows of people and information, the study of mobility – intended as the variegated and multi-directional movement of people, objects, ideas and texts, both in space and time – cannot but represent a crucial interest not only for the field of Humanities and hence our Department, but also for the entire citizenship, as demonstrated by the great participation of kids and adults which characterized all workshops throughout the evening.