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The Emilian Exhibition of 1888



During the second half of ‘800, the Exhibitions, local, national or universal, play an important role in promoting industrial production and commercial exchanges. Shop-windows, (initiative schools) and technical progress are an event no city wants to refuse to and even Bologna can’t do without it.

Before the famous Exhibition of 1888, some manifestations at provincial level had been organized: one in 1852, the partial one in 1855, a complete one the following year and another one, somewhat consistent, in 1869. The agricultural sector, seeing the local peculiarity, proves, as usual, the most consistent but this stimulates more and more the reflection about the importance to support it with a proficient industry, at least in the canning and alimentary transformation sector and in the mechanics, which can be helped by the rising necessities of these productions. The agricultural and industrial Exhibition of ’88, organized at the same time of the celebrations for the eighth century of life of Bologna’s university and the unveiling of the statue dedicated to Vittorio Emanuele, not only is at regional level, but also counts in itself a national Fine Arts exhibition and an international music exhibition. The Fine Arts exhibition is located at San Michele in Bosco while the other two manifestations are organized in the (latest/new) Giardini Margherita and the two centres are connected each other by a steam tramway and by a funicular. Engineer Filippo Buriani is charged of the direction of the preparation works. These include the construction of a lot of temporary buildings and various decorations created by artists of a certain prominence: at the main gate, we find as guards the statues of Agriculture and Industry by sculptor Tullo Golfarelli and the large square of the Exhibition shows off a huge fountain, by Diego Sarti, decorated with lions, snakes and mermaids, which will definitively be situated in Montagnola Gardens. First of all, the Exhibition shows some novelties in the agricultural sector.

The region is trying to get out of the crisis by adopting two different strategies: the western provinces, till Modena, are aiming more and more at breeding and dairy production; the eastern part, that keeps on counting on cultivations, is introducing some new ones, like vineyards and fruit-growing. Despite the visitor is (welcomed) by a huge pile of hanks of hemp, proposed as the region’s characteristic product, the (turning/change) is already taking place and the exposer (presenting 110 different kinds of fruit or the exhibition of the dairy production cycle) are premises to the directions that agriculture would have taken in the decades immediately after and that would have featured the region till recent times. Meanwhile, industry becomes more and more connected with the canning and alimentary transformation sector and in the work pavilion (which reigns on the others) are the Majani chocolates kiosk, which manifactures its products at the moment, and the Bolognese cold meats one, that, besides, expose a huge kg 150 mortadella. Mechanics is the other big sector: the workshops are numerous and important, as the big Calzoni machine-shop. The textile factories, that counted productive realities of big dimensions too, are still aiming at hemp and silk but now, as also Vera Zamagni recalls, it’s a decading sector, with silk on the sunset avenue and hemp on the same way. The Exposition, opened on May 6 in presence of the royal family and the Prime Minister Francesco Crispi, closes on November 11 after 189 days. There have been 500.000 visitors but, apart from the first period and the big (parties/holidays) in June for the VIII centenary of the University and in August for the inauguration of Ugo Bassi’s monument, in average, the visitors were less than one thousand a day. The manifestation, in fact, ends up with a big deficit, which, in the end, will be covered by Bologna’s Municipality and Province. Nevertheless, despite the economic failure, this, as all the other manifestations held during the year, including restores of a lot of public buildings, marks (the entering of Bologna/Bologna’s positioning) on her way towards modernization.