History

Origins

In 1985, the associations Classe ’27 and Ex Allievi del Setificio started collecting material belonging to silk factories (photo 1) based in Como.
In the 1960s, the textile industry started changing because of fundamental reorganisation and, in the 1980s, the silk factories left their premises definitively (photos 2 and 3). This made it possible to gather together machinery and other material to hand down the history and work of the silk industry to future generations.
In 1988, Comitato per la costituzione del Museo della Seta (the Committee charged with bringing the Silk Museum to life) was founded. The Committee enhanced and displayed its first exhibits during “Mostra permanente di reperti storici dell’industria della seta” promoted by Provincia di Como, Cassa di Risparmio delle Province Lombarde and Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale “Paolo Carcano”.
The Educational Silk Museum, representing the history of Como silk production, was opened in 1990.

Development

The number of exhibits gradually increased throughout the years; the Museum staff, other experts and technicians of silk production, industrial history and craftsmanship of the period 1850-1950, had the important task of maintaining the historical and cultural identity of the machines.
In 1992, Associazione per il Museo della Seta di Como was constituted to support the new Museum and help it carry on with its activities, principally its educational mission.
Public and private organisations and institutions of this industry, as well as individuals, are members of the Association which, in 1999, became a legal entity.
Between 1994 and 1998, the Museum expanded: it welcomed numerous donations of machinery and instruments integrating and completing the museum exhibition. This was made possible thanks to the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo and Regione Lombardia.
In 1995, the Association promoted an international competition for someone to create the Museum logo; the competition was won by Simona Zamperini and Gabriella Ornaghi from Milan.

Today

The Museum extends over a surface of 1000 square metres and its exhibits reconstruct the silk manufacturing process with an historical and educational approach.
Moreover, the visitor is given the opportunity to learn more about both the whole process and the single phases that make it up. In some cases, the dimensions of the rooms make the exposition of cumbersome machines feasible.
The machines were donated to the Museum and all restoration work was carried out by keeping the original mechanisms. The Museum has archives and warehouses where an indispensable heritage of machines and various objects is stored to augment the permanent exhibition.
The area / The building

The Educational Silk Museum (photo 2) is situated in the basement of one of the buildings where other institutions are also located: Istituto Industriale StatalePaolo Carcano(photo 4), Centro Tessile Serico Spa Consortile for technological update (photo 3) and Stazione Sperimentale per la Seta for research in the silk and textile industries; finally, the seats of Università dell’Insubria and Politecnico di Milano have been based in the area since 1990.
The increase in literacy and the ever-changing requirements in the silk industry made the creation of a new building for Setificio silk school necessary.
As a consequence, in 1963 “Consorzio per l’erigendo edificio dell’Istituto Tecnico Industriale di Setificio Paolo Carcano” was created; it was a combine of three institutions (i.e. Provincia, Comune and Camera di Commercio) willing to create functional schools to train managers, technicians and workers in the silk industry.
Architects Lorenzo Muzio and Franco Tartaglino Mazzucchelli designed the new School, built between 1970 and 1974.
Room plan

Besides the whole silk manufacturing process (from design to weaving, dyeing, printing, photoengraving and finishing), Como was renowned for the manufacture of textile machines, principally looms.

The Museum is going to change for renovation and enlargement work, providing it with a new hall, a library, a laboratory for educational purposes and new rooms for temporary exhibitions.

The Museum documents the history of silk production in Como from the end of the 19th century to the first decades of the 20th century, through the exhibition of both machinery and devices. Moreover, it also shows the role played by silk in the economic growth of the area.

The historical origins of silk production date back to the 16th century, but it is in the 19th century that it became the most important industry, thanks to the founder of “Setificio” school, Pietro Pinchetti.

Every room is dedicated to a single silk production process, which is shown in its scientific, technological and creative aspects.


The Silk route

Welcome to the Museum area dedicated to Chinese and Japanese labels, which were used to pack raw silk hanks at the beginning of the 20th century.

Paper labels are deemed one of the most popular forms of art. Thanks to images (for instance animals, symbols, landscapes, etc.), they draw people’s attention and arouse their curiosity.

In past times, when the illiteracy rate was quite high, labels used to have a practical purpose; in fact, it was not uncommon for traders to use labels in order to recognise both fabrics and trademarks.
The Silk Route of Como

A number of initiatives, such as congresses organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the European Council on the so-called "Silk Route of Como", highlight the influence of silk production in Como area for both culture and tourism.

The word “route” means a network of Museums, Cultural Institutions, Historical Buildings and Archives showing people the birth and the evolution of silk in Como and on the lake. Moreover, visitors should be given the information they need so as to allow them to make the most of such experience.

Particularly, on the Western shore of Como Lake, the whole silk manufacture process is shown and exhibited at the Educational Silk Museum of Como. Other venues of particular interest are Centro di gelsibachicoltura located in Cassina Rizzardi, Opificio di Carlazzo (now hosting a weaving factory), the former silk reeling mills Comitti (Brienno), Triulzi (Tremezzo), Grandi (Lenno – seat of the Civic Library) and Erba (situated in Pianello del Lario and hosting the museum of boats) and many others.

On the Eastern shore, it is possible to go to the Civic Museum Setificio Monti in Abbadia Lariana, displaying the biggest throwing mill in Europe (restored in the 19th century) and located in an ancient silk reeling mill. Another museum worth visiting is the Silk Museum in Garlate, situated in the former Abegg silk reeling mill and representing the first museum of industrial archaeology in Italy.