Jorge Luis Borges never visited the Guatelli Museum, in Ozzano Taro, a neighborhood in Collecchio, in the province of Parma. But perhaps he unwittingly described its essence in his nostalgic poem, “Things”: “My walking-stick, small change, key-ring, / The docile lock and the belated / Notes my few days left will grant / No time to read, the cards, the table, / A book, in its pages, that pressed / Violet, the leavings of an afternoon / Doubtless unforgettable, forgotten, / The reddened mirror facing to the west / Where burns illusory dawn. Many things, / Files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails, / Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves, / So blind and so mysteriously secret! / They’ll long outlast our oblivion; / And never know that we are gone.”
In this “museum of everyday life” – the wonderful fruit of the passion and patience of collector and elementary school teacher Ettore Guatelli (1921-2000) – things are arranged like visionary illustrations in an antique book. Minimal, everyday objects adorn walls, doors and ceilings with dizzying geometries, or flock neatly on the shelves, turning them into colorful mosaics. They are everywhere, silently telling us about dreams and stories, minuscule episodes in the poor lives of men and women who were inextricably linked to nature and hard work. Simple things that quietly witnessed boundless wishes.
“These are humble things, sure, but some of them are incredibly ingenious, poetic in their humility, and lovable. That makes you want to understand who was there, and what was behind these objects. It makes you want to know in what way and under what circumstances these items were used”: this was Guatelli’s vision, which led him to collect these everyday things, and care for them, for his whole life.