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Autobiographical writing – Memory


The ‘Archivio Diaristico Nazionale’: an interview with Daniela Brighigni

The Archivio Diaristico Nazionale was created in 1984 by Saverio Tutino, an Italian journalist from Milan who worked for ‘L’Unità’ and ‘Repubblica’.  How did the idea of creating an archive of popular writings in Pieve Santo Stefano, a Tuscan town in the hills around Arezzo, come to life??

The ADN was born out of the determination to create a place where the life-stories narrated in diaries, memoirs and letters could not only be conserved but valued. Unlike those archives where documents are merely preserved, the ADN was inspired by Saverio’s intention to convey the energy of the memoirs and private documents, that forgetfulness and loneliness often remove and annihilate. As an ‘ego-writer’, the Milanese journalist discovered Pieve Santo Stefano, a town destroyed by war and whose original architecture was spared only in the council building. He realized that Pieve was the ideal place to gather together and bring to a new life thousands of memoirs, letters and diaries written by ordinary people, who, whilst not appearing in the official accounts, are a constituent part of history.

What is the consistency of the archive collections, in terms of the typology of documents, their geographical origin and the historical period in which they were produced?

They ADN holds more than 6500 documents, divided into memoirs, diaries and letters. Wars and emigrations constitute an important part of our collection. However, none of our documents are monothematic. Due to the autobiographical nature, every single text intertwines various topics ranging from work to family life, from politics to religious faith, from friendship to feminism.

The Foundation of the ADN carries on a rich cultural activity comprising the organization of conferences, the publication of a scientific journal entitled ‘Primapersona’, the collaboration with scholars and intellectuals of great relevance, among whom figure Pietro Clemente, Nanni Moretti and Nicola Tranfaglia. Would you like to illustrate the most important features of this activity?

The cultural activity of the ADN has become increasingly rich and qualified in the last thirty years, through a continuous and consistent relationship with various Italian and European Universities. After decades in which a literary tradition had considered autobiographical writing a mere preparatory stage for major genres, an academic process of re-evaluation has finally been initiated. Testimonies as a genre have been reasserted as the voice of observers and protagonists of social phenomena that narrate important developments as they unfold, thus providing ‘another view’ that completes the official accounts.

For this reason the journal ‘Primapersona’ was founded and participation to conferences on genre literature initiated. The ADN has become an important viewpoint from which to monitor linguistic changes, along with writing motivations and modalities. It has become both a new subject and an object of study, which encounters the interest of television and theatre, together with that of scholars who find valuable unpublished material in our collections.

The study of various expressions of popular writing, as a means to shed light on the subjectivity of historical experience, has had a noteworthy development in the last twenty years. In what ways has the ADN promoted and how will it continue to promote this direction of study?

The ADN cannot but continue on its path, both by collecting and transcribing original and unpublished pieces of writing. We will keep promoting them through such a consolidated channel as the ‘Premio Pieve’, our annual competition of autobiographical writing. We will also promote public readings, the creation of drama versions of material taken from our collections and its publication.

The ADN is determined to preserve its material by digitalizing it, with the purpose of fostering fruition without causing damage, of engaging with a new path of reading where technology and the delicacy of the original material are bound together, in a permanent exchange between past and present.

Daniela Brighigni is a schoolteacher and works as archivist and researcher in the ‘Fondazione Archivio Diaristico Nazionale’. Since 1998, she has been editorial assistant of Primapersona, the journal of the ADN founded by Saverio Tutino.


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This entry was posted on March 12, 2013 by in Memory.
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