Preserving and Protecting Traditional Knowledge for the Future

Granaries. Traditionally these rural reserves hold the fruits of an entire year’s work, stored up in expectation of a long, cold winter. Now, in the 21st century, they have become a virtual depository of voices, stories and knowledge, stored online for future generations. 

This is the idea behind the new Granaries of Memory project, presented on Thursday October 28th at the Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre during the conference “Traditional Knowledge: An Inheritance to Treasure.” The project is an initiative of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, and the university’s dean, Piercarlo Grimaldi, presented the web portal along with Davide Porporato, a professor at the University of Eastern Piedmont. Also speaking at the conference were Marino Niola, of the Suor Orsola Benincasa University in Naples; José Esquinas-Alcazar, director of the CEHAP (Cátedra de Estudios sobre Hambre y Pobreza) at the University of Cordoba; Darina Allen of Slow Food East Cork and Carlo Petrini, Slow Food’s president. 

Launched in July, the Granaries of Memory is an online archive of interviews with farmers, cooks, partisans, as well as cultural figures like poet Tonino Guerra and singer-songwriter Francesco Guccini, and already contains 300 videos. 

Piercarlo Grimaldi explained that until the middle of the 20th century, manual skills and knowledge were passed down orally, from generation to generation, within families. This model of transmission has now been interrupted, but the internet allows us to reknot the threads of the past, recovering the last remaining fragments of memory and preserving them for the future.

“We are moving towards uncertain times, times of change,” said José Esquinas-Alcazar. “For future generations it is important to maintain biodiversity at all levels.” And it is precisely the complementarity between new technologies and traditional knowledge that can help us to safeguard the ethnodiversity of languages, customs and traditions.”

Using the past as a tool to plan the future: This is the ambitious objective of the Granaries of the Memory. To ensure that everyone can make their contribution, a training course is now available online for new users, with lots of useful advice for anyone who wants to gather stories as a way of combatting the dominant culture of standardization.

Carlo Petrini emphasized that this challenge will be primarily taken on by young people. “Intergenerationality is the most powerful creative force. Making this oral culture available to everyone via new technologies is the best of modernity.”

“Tradition drives innovation, rewriting the maps of a new sensibility,” said Marino Niola. A different humanity, looking to the past to redesign and remodel the future, in other words, and in fact the title of Piercarlo Grimaldi and Davide Porporato’s brand-new book about this extraordinary project is I granai della memoria. Umanità 2.0 – “The Granaries of Memory: Humanity 2.0.”

Giorgia Cannarella

[email protected]


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