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Testalino Liutaio
Last updated on 21 September 2023

Safeguarding plan

The safeguarding plan is a tool for consultation between various stakeholders and for planning and directing activities that help keep the cultural element alive over time. The more robust the participatory process, the more effective the measures adopted by the community.

It is provided for in the UNESCO Convention and established by Law 77 of 2006 and is a governance tool for developing a participatory and multilevel process, that is one in which institutions are involved at local, regional, national and supranational level. The aim is to raise awareness of the value of the cultural element and the importance of its transmission while sharing the defining principles of UNESCO’s mission and the project outlined in the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The first steps in the Piano di salvaguardia del saper fare liutario tradizionale cremonese (‘Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship’) therefore, would be implemented in early 2021 with a preliminary phase involving a series of preparatory meetings between communities and institutions in the Cremona area with a view to sharing the prerequisites, as outlined in the 2003 UNESCO Convention, the paths to take and the joint measures to be put in place.

That phase concluded with a public event at which local, regional, state and supranational institutions presented the draft safeguarding plan to the public.

From then on, the work really intensified. This entailed informing the entire community of luthiers operating in the Cremona area and suggesting that they be involved in work on the safeguarding plan, initially by sharing their own views on the state of Cremonese luthiery, the strengths of the process by which the production method is transmitted, and the risks and threats that currently or could potentially jeopardise its survival.

The aim was not to seek immediate answers regarding the market or structural organization—issues for which various institutional and economic bodies were responsible on a local, regional, national and supranational level—but rather for the safeguarding plan to consolidate the system as a whole, enriching the on-going UNESCO International Convention project with the experience gained in Cremona.

Those who had contributed to the safeguarding of traditional violin craftsmanship, as recognised by UNESCO, from the completion of the application form to the present day were identified. Alongside the luthier community of craftsmen, the master luthiers who kept this heritage of humanity alive through their work on a daily basis were supported by a network comprising the following:

  • the City of Cremona
  • the Fondazione Museo del Violino, Cremona
  • the Claudio Monteverdi Higher Institute of Musical Studies – the Conservatory of Cremona
  • the Amilcare Ponchielli Theatre Foundation
  • the International School of Violin Making
  • Forma, a special agency for training services to the province of Cremona
  • universities and research laboratories:
    • the Department of Musicology, University of Pavia,
    • the Cremona Campus of the Polytechnic University of Milan
    • the ‘Arvedi’ Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics, University of Pavia
    • the musical acoustic lab of the Polytechnic University of Milan
  • the Cremona Chamber of Commerce
  • trade associations
  • the ‘Antonio Stradivari’ Consortium of Violin Makers
  • CremonaFiere
  • cultural associations and civil society organizations

This extensive community as a whole was called to action to support efforts to safeguard the luthiery community, as possessor of the asset in question.

The Convention actually recommended that governments “endeavour to ensure the widest possible participation of communities, groups and, where appropriate, individuals that create, maintain and transmit such heritage” to ensure the dynamism of the cultural element.

The Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship was the result of a long process of discussion and experience that involved the cultural and educational institutions belonging to the Cultural District of the City of Cremona, the Cremona Chamber of Commerce, trade associations, the Consortium of Violin Makers, CremonaFiere, the ‘Claudio Monteverdi’ Higher Institute of Musical Studies - Conservatory of Cremona, and the Ponchielli Theatre from 2016 to 2021.

Together with the Fondazione Museo del Violino, with which the City of Cremona had developed the draft safeguarding plan and established the new museum system, the aims, preparation and development of the plan were shared in the first half of 2021. The themes of each supposed work session were also examined in depth and the contribution that each of the players in this broad network would make to the work and to the implementation of future safeguarding measures was defined.

This preparatory work laid the foundations for a process of consultation and involvement of the entire Cremonese community, along with its relevant institutions, trade associations and craftsmen. Sharing an initial draft programme provided an opportunity to hear criticisms, suggestions and proposals from all those involved. Particular attention was paid to the involvement of the luthier community so that everyone had the opportunity to speak, the aim being to put the luthiery community in all its diversity at the centre of an approach that was as inclusive as possible.

▪       The Monteverdi Institute, the Cremona Conservatory and the Ponchielli Theatre – 4 February 2021, Webex

It was important to establish a fruitful and continuous dialogue between musicians and luthiers based on proximity and constant interaction. The way for luthiers to live and work in a city brought to life by music and the presence of musicians was through places offering musical training and those where music was produced and performed, namely the conservatory and the theatre, which, together with the Museo del Violino, were forging solid partnerships and developing new projects.

The role of those cultural institutions that were so fundamental to the city of Cremona was discussed during this initial meeting and each of them was asked to express their opinions and expectations of the Plan, which they would play a fundamental role in developing.

▪       Luthiery District – 11 February 2021, Webex

Established in 2015 as the Cultural District of the City of Cremona thanks to the support of the Fondazione Cariplo, the Luthiery District was the project through which the City of Cremona had thus far supported the centres for the transmission of knowledge and research, the promotion of the classical luthiery heritage, and musical culture and contemporary Cremonese luthiery. It did so by coordinating those players in the city that dealt with heritage conservation, education, training and research in the field of music and luthiery and bringing these areas closer into line with the material culture of the luthier. The new pathway was shared with these representatives and reflection on the role and contribution of each initiated. Participants included the Department of Musicology and Cultural Heritage of the University of Pavia, the Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics of the University of Pavia, the Musical Acoustic Lab of the Polytechnic University of Milan, the International School of Violin Making, and CrForma, a special agency providing vocational training in the province of Cremona.

▪       Luthiery steering group –  12 February 2021, Webex

Also established in 2015, the luthiery steering group initially comprised only craft trade associations and the Chamber of Commerce, in addition to the City Council and the Fondazione Museo del Violino, with the Consortium of Violin Makers and CremonaFiere also later participating in the work. The steering group was called upon to offer an opinion on the proposed safeguarding plan from the perspective of a party approaching the subject of violin craftsmanship with the skills and knowledge of the problems experienced by craft businesses.

The mayor presented the Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship at the meeting, expressing his expectations of this strategic tool for dialogue and for planning for the city’s future, giving everyone a role to play in planning it together and the space in which to do so. “Not only does direct intervention in the economic aspect consolidate and strengthen it, but the drawing up of a safeguarding plan, for example, means looking after the profound identity of a community, protecting it with specific measures, the impact of which reverberate throughout the system, including the economic aspect”. A great deal of cooperation on all parts, then.

▪       Meetings with the luthier community

Meetings with the luthier community were held via digital platforms.

With regard to the initial meetings with the community of practice presented to institutional representatives, in fact, hybrid meetings, with some of the participants attending in person and some attending remotely, were still a possibility, in a way that made confrontation and presence possible. The progression of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, meant that the format of these meetings had to be adapted in keeping with the regulations in force.

The preparatory work included several online discussions and debates and a more structured meeting that was held on 26 April 2021. A draft of this document was shared during these meetings in order to hear criticisms and suggestions from the Cremonese luthiery community, the most pressing of which manifested themselves in the form of two recurring questions: “what exactly is the Cremonese heritage to be protected?” and “what does traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship entail?”.

These questions highlighted the need to update the definition established during in the application process to take into account the complexity of the current situation and allow the extensive and articulate community of craftsmen linked to Cremona and its violin-making tradition to have their say. Listening, describing, distinguishing and recognising proved crucial to the safeguarding of what had been defined as ‘traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship’.

▪       CLOSURE OF THE PREPARATORY PHASE: Public event on 10 May 2021

An event organised in collaboration with UNESCO and the Ministry of Culture—UNESCO Intangible Heritage and Safeguarding Plans - The Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship—took place on 10 May 2021.

At the event held in the Museo del Violino’s Arvedi Auditorium, Mayor Galimberti spoke with representatives of local, regional, national and international institutions to officially present the work of drafting the safeguarding plan to the relevant audience.

The various institutions involved therefore took the opportunity to illustrate the work undertaken in Cremona since October 2020, which, with the support of two UNESCO ICH facilitators, led to the outlining of an initial work programme divided into a series of themed sessions based on a framework reflecting the fundamental areas of safeguarding as outlined in the UNESCO Convention, as well as the outcomes of the preparatory meetings and dialogues initiated and developed with the luthiery community and the city’s various institutions.

The agenda for the event was as follows:

  • General aspects of the UNESCO Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage (introductory speech by Prof. Tullio Scovazzi)
  • The changing nature of intangible cultural heritage and the need to continuously update regulatory, fact-finding and safeguarding tools (Ana-Luiza Thompson Flores)
  • The UNESCO Office of the Ministry of Culture and the relationship with the Italian elements on the Representative List of the Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Mariassunta Peci, Head of Department II — UNESCO Office, General Secretariat of the Ministry of Culture)
  • La liuteria: un ponte tra l’Italia e il mondo (Luthiery: a bridge between Italy and the world) — Giorgio Marrapodi, Min. Plen., Director General for Development Cooperation — MAECI, Governing Council, National Commission for UNESCO.
  • ‘Communities, groups and individuals’ for the Convention: how to create a participatory dynamic for the transmission of an immaterial heritage? – Valentina L. Zingari and Benedetta Ubertazzi. Presentation of the work sessions on the Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship: themes and methods.

The community’s response to that meeting made it unequivocally clear, albeit through multiple channels, that the entire work programme had to be built on the theme of listening: an explicit and perfectly legitimate request.

A long questionnaire consisting of 9 sections and almost 100 questions was consequently drawn up in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture in response to the luthiers’ request for greater involvement, for the purposes of gathering data based on their direct experiences and to dig a little deeper into their perceptions, needs and perspectives.

The preparatory work had left no doubt as to the strategic importance of having luthiers pragmatically involved in the design, planning and development of the work sessions pertaining to the safeguarding plan.

The questionnaire, drawn up by listening to the community and with the support of the Ministry of Culture, therefore aimed to highlight precisely the aspects of need and pragmatism through the following three specific actions:

  • providing all luthiers with a free and informed platform to express the heritage they held (ethical principle 1) while respecting privacy and the choice to remain anonymous.
  • collecting new quantitative and qualitative data on which to base an analysis of the ‘state of health’ of the element in question spanning several levels, namely a simplified statistical analysis, an interpretation stage that synergistically combined the tools of the Convention with anthropological methods, and a summary for the purposes of making the data talk;
  • amending the schedule for the supposed work sessions in light of the data collected.

Its structure, which was directly linked to the areas of safeguarding, the results of the preparatory work and the priorities that emerged in relation to the community, took into account the themed areas and indicators defined by UNESCO for assessing the achievement of results (the impact of the Convention) through national safeguarding processes, the Overall Results Framework, and was divided into 9 sections:

  • Description: what does ‘traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship’ mean today? What are the traits that characterise it and determine its identity?
  • Music and the relationship between musicians and luthiers: the work of the luthier in indissociable from their relationship with musicians. How is this dialogue established and how can it be reinforced?
  • Transmission: what are the most effective ways of transmitting this knowledge to future generations?
  • Research and relationships with research institutes:what is good about what has already been done and what could be improved in the future?
  • Legal protection: which practical protective measures can best protect traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship?
  • Promotion: how can traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship be promoted ethically in a rapidly evolving global context?
  • Communication: how do you communicate your expertise and how can we help you and the whole community to do it better?
  • Risks and threats: what are the current and potential threats that could jeopardise the vitality of Cremonese luthiery?
  • The practical needs of luthiers: looking into the practicalities of life in the workshops—what are the needs and which of them can be met?

Data collection, analysis and interpretation: methods

The data collected were analysed by applying, first and foremost, the tools of the UNESCO ICH Convention (along with its definitions, Operational Guidelines, training materials and Overall Results Framework indicators), and secondly, as a means of scientific-disciplinary support, expertise in the field of cultural anthropology. This discipline favours listening to communities and understanding the social processes behind the identification, description and transmission of intangible cultural heritage, thus helping to establish inclusive sustainable development processes. Informed listening, gender and generation inclusivity, and the inclusion of foreigners and those not represented by associations were the main criteria taken into account. Following the publication of the questionnaire and the access link, each luthier operating in the Cremona area was contacted personally to ensure that they were all able to participate and that the criterion of collecting data on the basis of informed listening was met.

The task of interpreting the data collected was performed in three stages, namely quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis and interpretive synthesis.

Quantitative analysis

An assessment of the response rates to the different questions in the questionnaire offered significant insight into the priorities on which the community wished to focus future work. Seventy-nine luthiers responded to the questionnaire, corresponding to 47.3% of the total community of professionals operating in the Cremona area.

Qualitative analysis

The qualitative analysis identified key themes in each of the responses provided, i.e. points of agreement expressing common visions and values, shared needs, and perceptions and representations of the element in question in a contemporary context.

Responses were then combined (for each section of the questionnaire and each question) into themed groups based on key themes and priorities identified by community members and took into account the UNESCO indicators of the Overall Results Framework (ORF), a tool used by all governments for drafting the Report on the Implementation of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.  

Interpretive synthesis

The quantitative and qualitative analyses made it possible to produce a summary identifying values, shared needs and priorities for the various fields already defined by the themed structure of the questionnaire. 

The findings

The data produced constitute a valuable asset in the journey to developing the safeguarding plan. They generally revealed the following:

  1. a high level of consensus regarding the definition of traditional luthiery heritage, with reference to what is expressed in the UNESCO application dossier;
  2. a good level of consensus in identifying threats and risks to its transmission;
  3. a good level of consensus regarding priority issues for the community;
  4. practical suggestions and recommendations, of measures, initiatives and activities, that would prove valuable in developing the Plan for the Safeguarding of Traditional Cremonese Violin Craftsmanship.

Of particular interest were the responses to the question investigating to what extent each of the topics discussed during work on the safeguarding plan was a priority for the luthiers concerned.

The topics were put forward based on this list:

  • Principles and purposes of the 2003 UNESCO Convention;
  • What constitutes traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship;
  • The heritage community;
  • Transmission between school and workshop;
  • Music, musicians and luthiers;
  • Training and research;
  • Governance;
  • Risks and needs;
  • Legal protection measures;
  • Intangible heritage and cultural diversity;
  • Promotion and market dynamics;
  • Communication within and outside of the community

The planning for the work sessions was consequently reworked to make it more responsive to the indications provided by the luthiers, taking into consideration not only the data emerging from the graph shown here but also the quantitative and qualitative data emerging from the responses to the various sections of the questionnaire.

After sharing it with the relevant ministerial offices, the planning was presented to the community by the City of Cremona, representing the various institutional voices involved, and that of the Ministry in particular.

Presentation of the findings – 25 January 2022

The data from the questionnaire were presented to the community at this meeting and a working method proposed that involved preparing for each session by creating a voluntary working group that was open to luthiers and designed to help the relevant offices and facilitators to focus on and understand the content and operating methods of the respective sessions[1].


At the time the results of the questionnaire were presented, an initial schedule, structured as follows, was put to the luthiers:

  • Characters and fundamental values of traditional Cremonese luthiery expertise
  • Musicians and luthiers: a vital connection
  • The challenges of transmission between school and workshop (Part I)
  • Cultural spaces and tools associated with practice (Part II)
  • The challenges of transmission between education and research systems (Part III)
  • The craft within the applicable legislation, protective measures (Part I)
  • The craft within the applicable legislation, protective measures (Part II)
  • Demonstrating and promoting traditional Cremonese luthiery expertise
  • Documentation and research. Presentation of the project results in an appropriate manner
  • Safeguarding plans in the framework of a national and international comparison, characteristics and testimonies
  • The heritage community and its commitment to safeguarding: cultural governance.

The content of the questionnaire notably indicated an extremely clear direction to which the wealth of local expertise and testimonies made it possible to formulate an immediate response. This issue was, in fact, the subject of the Il saper fare liutario cremonese: storia, tecniche costruttive, testimonianze e identità (‘Cremonese luthiery expertise: history, production techniques, testimonies and identity’) project, presented and funded under notice 21710/2021 signed by Secretary General Anastasi. The response to the question on defining traditional Cremonese violin craftsmanship will involve a long process of investigation, debate and historical reconstruction, starting from the birth of luthiery and continuing into the 20th century.

This is our starting point.