The history of the salt museum

MUSA - Salt Museum of Cervia is born from the passion and the desire not to disperse an important cultural heritage for and of the town. In the mid-1980s, Agostino Finchi, a former salt worker, together with a group of enthusiasts, recover the material connected with the history of the salt pan of Cervia. These include the tools, documents, and everything that could witness the historical route of the Cervia salt civilisation. With the material gathered, towards the late 1980s a permanent exhibition was set up inside the salt warehouses that bears witness to the activities of the salt workers and life in the salt pans. In 1989, the group of enthusiasts set up a cultural association and the Gruppo Culturale Civiltà Salinara was born. It has worked and continues to work to bear witness to a relatively recent past whose memory is still alive in that of the residents of Cervia.

In 1959, salt production in Cervia changes and from the artisan method with multiple collection it moves to the industrial and mechanised system with a single annual harvest. The salt pan changes appearance: the family-run salt pans disappear and are replaced by large evaporation and collection tanks. The wood equipment used until that time in the salt pan disappears and is replaced by large mechanical equipment. The mechanised harvesting system makes the figure of the salt worker disappear who until then was engaged in the salt basin together with the whole family. The new system does away with the salt worker whose memory is kept alive by that of those who lived this reality and by the material collected over the years by the enthusiasts. The work begun by Agostino Finchi and his friends and collaborators has taken on enormous value. It bears witness to the culture of Cervia, the local identity.

In 2004, the permanent exhibition of the salt civilisation is reorganised into a museum that takes the name of MUSA, namely MUseo del SAle (Salt Museum). An integral part of the museum is the Camillone salt pan, an ancient salt pan saved from the 1959 transformation.

The salt produced in the Camillone salt pan maintains the characteristics of whole salt typical of the artisan production of Cervia and its peculiar characteristics due to the type of processing, as well as naturally the special climate of the area, allowed it to obtain the Slow Food presidium award in 2004. Today, the museum is permanently located in the salt warehouse, a venue that could not be more suitable. It is an ethnological museum that displays a unique local production. The special feature of MUSA also lies in the vitality of the museum. The people who run the facility are salt workers, therefore they can transmit directly their experience and cultural heritage. The support of these people is a great asset for Cervia. The tools that are on display in the museum are still used in the Camillone salt pan and so whoever visits the museum and the salt pan can see the equipment in use, understand what use is made of it, what the difference is between the tools. Thus, the museum speaks of cultural heritage, which is not only transmitted in a material form but can also be touched by hand and experienced.

Today, the museum is part of the museum network of the Emilia Romagna Region. It equipped itself with a service charter in 2007 and obtained the qualification of Quality Museum. The facility is well-known and appreciated. Each year, scores of thousands of people visit it. This is surely a reason of pride for the town, but the museum works continuously to bring all targets of the public close to the salt civilisation of Cervia. Educational activities with training courses are offered to primary schools, lower and higher secondary schools and activities dedicated to nursery school children.