The Antonio Pasqualino International Puppet Museum was founded in 1975 by the Association for the Conservation of Folk Traditions. Since its foundation, the Museum has constantly pertained to contemporary museography and not being a temple of knowledge for a few people, but a place for spreading culture and knowledge. The combination of traditional museum activities and the organization of live theatrical shows is at the basis of one of the most successful examples of museum research on theatre.
The history of the Museum is linked to its founder Antonio Pasqualino, disappeared in 1995, who was a surgeon, anthropologist, expert of the history and culture of his motherland, Sicily. Antonio Pasqualino dedicated his researches to a form of theatre that, in the second half of the 20th century, seemed to be inexorably disappearing: Sicilian puppet theatre, which narrated the history of the Crusades and French paladins.
The Museum showcases objects from lots of European countries and the Far East such as France, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma and so on.
It conserves about 4,000 items, including marionettes, marottes, hand puppets, shadow puppets, theatrical machines and playbills from all around the world. Among these, it houses the largest and most complete collection of pupi from Palermo, Catania and Naples, used in the Opera dei pupi, that is Sicilian traditional puppetry, proclaimed by UNESCO a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001. Besides, you can find many other objects used in the other puppet traditions which have obtained the same award: the Japanese Ningyo Johruri Bunraku, the Indonesian Wayang Kulit and the Cambodian Sbek Thom.
The Museums promotes the annual Festival di Morgana featuring artists from all over the world – as well as cultural exchanges with similar associations in the five continents.
The Museum's theatrical project also consists in the production of innovative shows. Since the beginning it has offered new inputs to contemporary writers and musicians (e.g. Italo Calvino, Francesco Pennisi, Luciano Berio) for the producion of new plays, and painters and visual artists (e.g. Renato Guttuso, Tadeus Kantor, Enrico Baj) have been commissioned new set designs and puppets which are now an interesting part of the permanent collection of the Museum.
In addition, the Museum has the Library "Giuseppe Leggio" which houses about seven thousand books concerning puppetry and folk traditions. Among these, a prized collection of handwritten scripts dating back to the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries and the chivalric installment publications published between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Besides, the Museum has a multimedia library which houses photographs, videos and sound records focusing on puppet traditions from different countries.
Education is another important field where the Association operates. Schoolchildren can attend guided tours enriched with explanatory videos, while school stakeholders can attend theoretical and practical training courses on the techniques of puppet theatre. Opera dei pupi shows can be performed on request.
Where it is
The Museum is located inside the ex Hotel de France, a building, known for its architectural and historical value, which is in Palermo downtown, near the monumental Piazza Marina. Recently, the adjacent square has been named after the Museum's founder, Antonio Pasqualino. The Museum develops on three levels and has many exhibition rooms, a bookshop, a library, a multimedia library and a theatre used for a considerable theatrical activity. An avant-garde and treasured Museum in Sicily, which is dedicated to Sicilian puppet theatre, a theatrical form which was proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Intangible and Oral Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO (2001).
Guided tours and theatrical shows can be performed off schedule when required; training courses, workshops, performances (not only puppet shows) can be organized for university and school students; exhibitions, conferences and debates take often place.