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Sources for the study of the history of the Italian Communist Party: the archives of the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna

by Maria Chiara Sbiroli

The Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna, together with many Italian public and private institutes, participates in the difficult and necessary task of researching and preserving the sources for the Italian history of the 20th century. In particular, its attention is directed to the history of the Italian political Left, signally the Italian Communist Party (PCI), and to the history of the political thought, the organizations and the people which have animated that experience, as party leaders and members. The geographical area of interest of the Fondazione Gramsci is the Emilia-Romagna, a region of Northern Italy where the PCI has always obtained a mass consensus, considered in its relationship with the Italian national context. So far, the value of the work done in valorizing the archival sources and in producing congruent means of communication has been thoroughly confirmed by the interest of researchers for all the typologies of documents collected (written, audiovisual and iconographic sources).

Compared to other Italian political parties, the PCI has historically shown greater sensibility for the conservation of its own documentation and historical memory. In the case of Emilia-Romagna, the PCI has identified the Fondazione Gramsci as the institute apt at conserving and valorizing its historical documentation. Thus the Fondazione Gramsci has received the two principal regional archives of the PCI: the archive of the Provincial Federation of Bologna and that of the Emilia-Romagna Regional Committee of the PCI.

The ‘Archivio del  Partito comunista italiano (Pci), Federazione provinciale di Bologna’ (archive of the Bologna Provincial Federation of the PCI), which has been recently re-organized, includes 958 files of documents produced between 1943 and 1991. Among the most important collections, the following deserve a special mention: the collections dedicated to the activity of the federal organs of the party (Federal Committee, Secretariat, Federal Directorate, Council of the Federation, Federal Control Commission), those dedicated to the local party branches (party zones, sections and committees), those dedicated to commissions, work sections and departments (among which are 1,300 autobiographies of PCI members, written between 1945 and 1970) and the documents from national party organs (National Congress, National Conference, Central Control Commission).

Attached to the archive of the Provincial Federation of the PCI is the archive of the Institute of Political Education ‘A. Marabini’, comprising 24 files of educational material which enable the reconstruction of  national and provincial courses for the development of party cadres and members held between 1949 and 1968.

The ‘Archivio del Partito comunista italiano (Pci), Comitato regionale Emilia-Romagna’ (archive of the Emilia-Romagna Regional Committee of the PCI), which is currently under organization, is equivalent in size to the archive of the Provincial Federation of Bologna and comprises the documents produced by the Regional Committee of the PCI between 1947 and 1991, as the coordinating organism of the local PCI Federations of the Emilia-Romagna.

Moreover, the archive of the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna includes three important collections related to the history of the PCI during the Resistance against the Fascists and the German occupation forces in Northern Italy between 1943 and 1945:

The collection of the ‘Partito Comunista Italiano – Triumvirato Insurrezionale Emilia-Romagna (1943-1948)’ contains 13 files of documents produced by the delegation of the Milanese directorate of the PCI for occupied Italy, between 1943 and 1948.

The collection of the ‘Comando Unico Militare Emilia-Romagna’, the organism coordinating the various partisan forces which operated in Emilia-Romagna during the Nazi and Fascist occupation and the war of liberation, includes 10 files of information bulletins on military activity, correspondence and documents on the anti-fascist epuration produced between 1944 and 1946.

The collection of the ‘Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale Emilia-Romagna’ (CLNER), the organism that coordinated, organized and directed the liberation movement during the Nazi and Fascist occupation of the Emilia-Romagna, includes 3 files of minutes from the CLNER meetings held between May 1945 and August 1946.

The acknowledgement of the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna as the institute apt at preserving the documentation of the PCI has entitled the Fondazione to collect numerous private archives of people who have operated within the PCI in Emilia-Romagna. Among them are pre-eminent figures of the regional administrative and political history like Giuseppe Dozza, Guido Fanti and Valdo Magnani.

The Giuseppe Dozza collection (1936-1974) comprises 57 files concerning Dozza’s activity as mayor of Bologna between 1945 and 1966, and as member of national and international organisms coordinating town councils’ institutions (Costituente, ANCI, Assemblea dei comuni d’Europa etc).

The Guido Fanti collection comprises 20 files of documents produced by Guido Fanti (mayor of Bologna between 1966 and 1970, first President of the Regione Emilia-Romagna between 1970 and 1976, member of the Italian and the European Parliament) between 1955 and 2012 in the course of his activity as politician and public administrator.

The Valdo Magnani collection is made up of 15 files (1925-1981) including, in addition to his private documentation, records about his troubled political career which in 1951 saw him  leave his post as one of the leaders of the PCI because of his anti-stalinist stance,  found the ‘Movimento dei Lavoratori Italiani’ with Aldo Cucchi,  be active in the Italian Socialist Party between 1953 and 1961 and  return to the PCI in 1961.

Among other private collections kept in the archives of the Fondazione Gramsci, the correspondence between the anti-fascist consorts Paolo Betti and Lea Giaccaglia and the collection of the politician and unionist Vittorina Dal Monte deserve a special mention for their historical significance.

Beyond traditional archival collections, the sources available in the archives of the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna include iconographic material which as a category is increasingly attracting the attention of scholars and of institutes of archival documentation. Firstly, the archives of the Fondazione Gramsci comprise a collection of more than 12,000 manifestos, 4,000 flyers and 1,000 postcards of political and social subject, from 1945 to nowadays. In order to valorize this collection, in 2000 the Fondazione Gramsci  created ‘Manifestipolitici.it’, an online database of political and social manifestoes, which is alimented by various institutes of archival documentation: it has the purpose of valorizing and facilitating the research on this peculiar typology of documents. At the moment, around 2,600 manifestos produced by the PCI on a local and national level can be accessed online.

Secondly, the archives of the Fondazione Gramsci comprise a bulky collection of over 40,000 photographs, mostly from the archives of the PCI and from the newspapers La Lotta and l’Unità, which document the activity of the PCI and various political and social happenings of local and national relevance. For this material, a project of archival re-organization has been initiated and this has led to the treatment of 11,014 photographs concerning the ‘Feste dell’Unità’ (i.e. the festivals of the official press organization of the PCI) – including pictures of provincial festivals and of many national ‘Feste dell’Unità’ held in Bologna from the end of the war until 1991.

Thirdly, an important archival source belonging to the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna is the collection of audiovisual documents: 8mm, Super8mm, 16 and 35mm films and documentary videotapes of political and social subject, produced between the 1950s and the 1980s (c. 500 pieces), originated from the archives of the Audiovisual Centre of the Bologna Provincial Federation of the PCI and from private collections, currently deposited in the film library of the town of Bologna.

Finally, the library of the Fondazione Gramsci comprises books on the history of the political thought and the social movements of the Italian and European Left, which is its main specialism, and circa. 2,000 printed works published by the PCI, including periodicals, conference material, propaganda leaflets and documentation on the national, regional and local party activity.

As a development of its documentary collections, since its beginnings the Fondazione Gramsci has committed itself to the production of auxiliary tools for research and for valorizing its patrimony. Among these are the following publications: the series of the Annali of the Gramsci Institute – as the Fondazione was formerly denominated – from 1992 to 2005, the volumes I comunisti in Emilia-Romagna. Documenti e materiali, edited by Pier Paolo D’Attorre (Bologna; Istituto Gramsci, 1981); Il fondo Giuseppe Dozza, edited by Virginia Sangiorgi and Paola Zagatti (Bologna: Il Nove, 1994); Gli archivi dei partiti e dei movimenti politici. Considerazioni archivistiche e storiografiche, edited by Siriana Suprani (San Miniato: Archilab, 2001); La vita in rosso: Il centro audiovisivi della Federazione del PCI di Bologna, edited by Chiara Nicoletti (Roma: Carocci, 2009), and the forthcoming book Valdo Magnani e l’antistalinismo comunista, edited by Stefano Bianchini (Milano: Unicopli, 2013).

Further information on the patrimony of the Fondazione Gramsci, the inventories of the archival collections and contact information are available on the website of the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna: www.iger.org.

Maria Chiara Sbiroli holds a degree in History of Art and an MA in Library and Information Science from the University ‘Carlo Bo’, Urbino (Italy). She has worked as researcher and librarian in the Fondazione Gramsci Emilia-Romagna since 2008.

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This entry was posted on April 22, 2013 by in Memory.
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