The Crystal Museum of Colle Val d’Elsa is the first museum in Italy dedicated to this highly prized material and to its production. Work in crystal stands out among Colle’s most important enterprises, for this city alone creates 15% of the crystal produced in the world and more than 95% of all that is produced in Italy.
Set up inside the old furnaces of the Schmidt Crystal and Glassworks, formerly known as the Boschi Glassworks, the modern structure that houses the museum is designed to combine the city’s past with its present, presenting both memory and progress, while at the same time giving new life to an industrial site no longer in use.
The different sections along the original museum layout recreate the history of the local crystal industry, starting in 1820, the year the first furnace went into operation, through to the full manufacturing of lead crystal that came about in 1963. Displays present examples of pre-industrial production and of glass articles dating all the way back to the 14th and 15th centuries.
Beyond classic tableware (tumblers, wine glasses, bottles) other objects used in daily life are shown, such as inkwells and funnels, along with glassware made for pharmacies and laboratories. Every historic period was marked by different styles in terms of shapes, colours, as well as manufacturing and decoration techniques. Explanatory panels not only describe the history of various glassworks established in the city but also provide fascinating glimpses into the life of Colle and its inhabitants, as told through historic documents, period photographs, and insightful personal anecdotes.
One section is dedicated to the production of the first objects in valuable crystal (which started in 1963), paying great attention to the quality of design. The showcases hold pieces that unite the aesthetics of shape with the function of the object, marrying technical skill with artistic creativity.
The exhibits conclude with the reconstruction of the primary steps in production and with an evocative symbolic area devoted to sensorial perceptions: the Crystal Forest, a spectacular interpretation of the emotions prompted by the treasured material to which the museum is devoted.