Coldigioco is a small village in Italy with a unique history. It is scenically positioned on a narrow ridge that extends eastward from the foot of Monte San Vicino, the dominant Apennine mountain in the region. The village consists of 10 separate buildings, most of which are now associated with the Osservatorio Geologico di Coldigioco (OGC).
When Jesse Boss suggested the formation of this Network, she talked about this village. Here are her notes which she wrote before the conference.
A contribution to the development of an educational and scientific approach to ‘big history’ and ‘little big histories’ in Europe
Coldigioco: an introduction
It wasn’t entirely a coincidence that Sandro Montenari chose the old schoolhouse in Coldigioco to start his ‘Osservatorium Geologico”. After he finished his PhD and some post-doc time in Berkely he returned to Italy without a job, and decided to create indpendently his own scientific institution in Italy. He looked for a building around his place of birth Ancona, and found an empty schoolbuilding in Coldicioco (lit. Playfull hillside). He already knew this building: as a schoolkid he visited the school from Ancona. The schools were affiliated experimental Freinet schools. This innovative educational approach suited Sandro well: he grew into an innovator with a broad view, and a practical, inspiring organisor.
As a highschool student he was active as a speleologist, and was part of a group who discovered the now famous grottoes of Frasassi. As a geology student working in the Apennines he met Walter Alvarez in the field. Walter invited the promising student to come to Berkely for a PhD. So he did. At the same time as a student he met Paula Metallo, an American art student studying in Italy for some time. She became his wife an together they settled in Berkeley, where Paula built up a pretty good career as a painter and artist. At any moment Jan Smit also showed up in Berkeley, as a visiting professor, and joined the two illustrous men. Jan and Walter had found each other as codiscoverors of the impact events at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Jan worked on it in Spain, Walter in Italy. From that moment on they worked together on this subject, and became good friends.
Part of the schoolhouse was bought by Walter and his wife Milly (a psychologist who worked with homeless people), part of it by Sandro and Paula. The ground floor had a working place for Paula, and an office for Sandro and a working space for geologists. Every year groups of students from de United states came over and worked in this little Village in Italy. They received a intensive field course in geology, but also got acqainted to Italian culture, history, food and wine! Als Paul got involved in the teachings, zo art and art history became part of the curriculum.
Several geologists were inspired by the activities in Coldigioco, and bought some emty houses in Coldigioco. Partly American geologists, who came to teach and support the yearly studentgroups, partly scientists form different European countries. Christian Koeberl for instance, geochmist and astronomer (he even had an astronomical observatory built in the village), and nowadays director of the Natural history museum in Vienna. His wife, Donna Jaluvka, artist and gifted fotographer and Paula Metallo realised together some interesting artshows in different countries in Europe. Jan Smit also bought a nice place in the village, together with his wife Jesse and children. Jesse Bos is a historian and social scientist, she worked 10 years in the Tropical museum in Amsterdam , has a PhD on the organization and privatization of museums in the Netherlands and worked quite a while in local politics. Each of the ‘regents and reladies’ of Coldigioco introduced there own network in Coldigioco, and so a diverse and interesting community arose in the Marche, at de foot of the Apennines.
Now, after almost 25 years, it’s time to look forward. A new generation is standing up. Students that once visited Coldigioco now have reached positions in universities in America of Europe, they come back with new groups of students and new ambitions. Universities tend to ask for broader programs. The children of the different residents form families and as future owners of the houses in Coldigioco have their own say about what should happen there. Among them are a theatermaker, a designer, a strip-artist, an organiser of events and historian,a biologist, two astronomers, an inspiring cook and a nature-guard, just to mention some. How will they see the future of Coldigioco?
In 2010 Walter Alvarez invited some of the founders of the idea of ‘Big History’ to Coldigioco, to lay the foundation of the International Big History Association. With reason, too. In deed in Coldigioco lays the inspiration for new forms of education, intensive discussions about scientific projects, and different expressions of art all over. Bridges are built between art , culture and education, between physical and social science : big history in practice.
We think Coldigioco could become one of the partners in a European ‘Big History’ network, for instance by organizing once in two years a summer school for European students and teachers on ‘Big history’. It would need cooperation and a partnership from at least three different European countries, and financiel support from European institutions, to form a European network like that, with summerschools or network meetings on a regular basis. It’s a challenge, it might work: lets’s talk about it!