After the first article dedicated to the importance of the business archive to enhance the company history and the suggestions for implementing it, in this second article Sara Bertoldo, researcher at the IUAV University, illustrates the case study Emme Italia, one of the companies that is investing in its archive and enhancing its past, analyzing the evolution of the workplace during the 20th century, finding stimuli for innovation in the future.
Emme Italia, is a traditional family-run Venetian company, located in the Paduan territory in the former Bieffe and Bieffeplast factories, specialized in the production of drawing tables and drafting boards, over time it has expanded its catalog with metal furnishings for schools, offices and museums.
The company – that is investing and enhancing its archive- was born in 1995 from the passion of Maurizio Barison. In the 1980s he worked in the prototype development office of Bieffe and Bieffeplast and had the opportunity to “breathe” the design culture by the greatest architects. He became passionate about product design.
His son Alessandro Barison, designer and ADI member, immediately understood the importance of looking to the past to bring innovation into the future.
On the occasion of the 25 years company’s anniversary, decided to make public the collection of artifacts collected by his father and by former Bieffe employees during their careers, to let everyone know the history of design of our territory.
Under the curatorship of Simone Bellan and with the collaboration of the Ferrarese Anselmi family, in 2018 he inaugurated the exhibition Frammenti Bieffe 1953-1999 offering visitors for the first time the opportunity to admire objects designed by Anna Ferrarese Anselmi, Sottsass Associati, Joe Colombo, Ignazia Favata, Michele De Lucchi, Matteo Thun, Josef Hoffmann, Rodney Kinsman; catalogs, original publications and Bieffe and Bieffeplast documents from the 1980s and 1990s.
After the great success, Alessandro therefore decided to give life to the project “Nel segno del Metallo” ( In the sign of metal) with the aim of cataloging and enhancing the archive materials, and extending the research to a broader investigation into the history of the creative modern workplace.
To date, the archive cataloging phase has brought out about a hundred trade magazines including Ufficiostile, Domus, Office Layout, Habitat ufficio, Interni, Of Arch. International magazine of architecture and design, Us, Ottagono, Abitare; books on the history of design and architecture, design & management, contract, office, graphics and communication, materials, monographs by designers, architects and artists; catalogs, drawings, Bieffe and Bieffeplast price lists, competing companies from the 1960s to the present day and forty-five tubes containing transparencies of technical drawings and exploded views with bills of materials made in china of Bieffe and Zucor products from 1971 to 1989.
Within the archive there is a large section dedicated to Bieffe’s, Bieffeplast’s and Zucor’ s prototypes, products, diplomas and awards partly sold by former employees or on loan from the Anselmi family collection.
The cataloging phase was followed by a phase of enhancement of the archive, on the one hand, through the expansion of the collection with the search for artefacts inherent to the historical and industrial processes that have characterized the adoption of metal in furniture, with a focus on aimed at technical office furniture and the evolution of the workspace during the twentieth century; on the other hand, the dissemination of the material: both internally within the company – with the aim of improving research on new products and markets – and externally – by planning an online consultation to be accompanied by on-site one by researchers or users interested in learning more about the topic of metal.
It is obvious that the research project will not be able to end soon, the archive is constantly in progress needing of acquisitions and updates.
Furthermore, the pandemic has led research towards new challenges such as investing more resources on digitization, on the creation of shared databases and thematic digital tours.
All issues that can lead Emme Italia to establish a fruitful dialogue with the scientific community in support of corporate innovation processes.
Text by Sara Bertoldo, designer and researcher at IUAV University.