NAPLES – Citta’ Della Scienza (City of Science), an interactive science museum in the city of Naples, Italy, has reported extensive damage due to a fire that raged through the night of March 5th 2013.
The fire, which did not cause any human casualties, swept four of the six pavilions of the coastal museum leaving only the theatre intact.
The area has been placed under judicial seizure by investigators. The enormous amount of damage is due in part to the nature of the site and the collections held in the exhibition spaces; many structures and items in the collections are wood-based and highly flammable.
Eyewitnesses reported that the flames spread very quickly in at least four separate areas, advancing the hypothesis of a criminal act behind the disaster. Mayor Luigi de Magistris, a former magistrate with a vast experience in dealing with organized criminal organizations in the area said: “In my experience, given the rapidity at which the flames spread, I would conclude that foul play is involved”. He later added, in a message on social network site Twitter: “This city is under siege”.
Before the fire, the museum complex included a planetarium, an interactive museum with educational facilities, a conference centre, an advanced training centre and an art exhibition space. Citta’ della Scienza attracted over 350,000 visitors per year and was unique in the south of Italy.
Built in a former industrial area previously occupied by the controversial Italsider foundry in the area of Bagnoli, the museum represented the reclamation of the city’s industrial area and was a symbol of cultural renaissance. Over the past decade, Città della Scienza had gained widespread credibility as a centre for science education, and as an ‘incubator’ for young enterprises. The complex directly employs 160 members and contributes to the local economy using local supply chains. Aside from the cultural loss there is going to be also an economic loss in an area that is already struggling with rising unemployment and lack of prospects.
Comments started to appear almost immediately on social networks with dedicated pages being created on Facebook (FB). One FB user based in the city said: “We might understand, perhaps, the origins and the criminal reasons for the arson. But something will always remain unexplainable, especially for the Neapolitans: how can we live in a city where science doesn’t produce conscience”.
Shortly after the fire, the Italian minister of Education announced that the complex would be open again in 18 months, a deadline that many believe to be far too optimistic. Fundraising has already started and many initiatives have been publicised for donations including one led by The Città della Scienza. Volunteers are also sought to offer their expertise and skills in rebuilding the museum.
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