At the end of the 1940s, the debate surrounding the need for an industrial design museum re-emerged. This study reconstructs three projects developed for the city of Milan between 1947 and 1964 in three different locations: a Museum of Architecture and Decorative and Modern Industrial Arts or Modern Museum for the Applied Arts at the Palazzo dell’Arte, a section or permanent exhibition at the Museum of Science and Technology, an International Museum of Modern Architecture and Industrial Design at QT8. It highlights, on the one hand, the urgency of the question – which led to the development of specific museological concepts for industrial design by supporters such as Gio Ponti or Alberto Rosselli – and on the other hand, considering that nothing came of it, the difficulties connected to the ways in which design began to spread throughout Italy in the twenty years that followed World War II.
Like a Pandora’s box, the foundation of a design museum in Italy, has repeatedly been, for over fifty years, the object of numerous debates, projects and hypotheses, at least until 2007, when the Triennale Design Museum opened its doors in Milan. This article aims to reconstruct some of the episodes in this long story, focusing on two proposals that were elaborated by diverse teams of experts, between the 1980s and 1990s, at a particular moment of transition for the capital of Lombardy. Both found support within the municipal administration, but each from different institutional figures. Neither, however, became effective. One project was the initiative developed starting in 1986-1987 by Assolombarda (Industrial Association of Lombardy) and Amici della Triennale (Friends of the Triennale), involving various personalities from the Italian design community, and which was eventually supported by the mayor of Milan; the other, was a project for a museum and archive elaborated by a group of experts led by historian Anty Pansera, and supported by the deputy mayor of the city. Adding a piece to a long history which has yet to be fully documented and narrated, this article also intends to be an invitation to renew discussion on what a design museum in Italy is or could be.