Volunteering… or working for free?
Around 5,600 associations active in the Italian cultural heritage sector. Over 2000 thereof limit their activities to museums, libraries, and archaeological sites. Approximately 76,000 are the volunteers involved in this task.
These are the figures given by quiTouring, the monthly magazine of the Italian Touring Club (TCI), in its latest issue (March 2012, pp.13-17). Though volunteering goes back to a King’s decree dated 1907, establishing honorary inspectors for the cultural heritage, mass action only rose with the so-called “Mud Angels”, after the 3 November 1966 Flood of the Arno River in Florence.
Volunteers are to be considered a precious resource in the ever-impoverished cultural heritage sector. Nevertheless, a blurred frontier between real and forced volunteers gives easily way to critics. All too often, “volunteering” is - at least in Italian institutions - a politically correct expression for (often highly qualified, but) unpaid work.
(Rome, 5 March 2012)