Winter sports culture

Exibition and involvement of social actors in program and events.

Museum: Museo di Leventina
Years: 2018-2019

Museo di Leventina

The Museum of Leventina acts at multiple levels to enhance local intangible cultural heritage. Primarily, through a social-anthropological approach which aims mainly to investigate and promote the contemporary and past social phenomena, which form part of the intangible cultural heritage. This approach can be found both in the exhibition concepts and in the choice of objects, documents and testimonies that go to enrich the museum's collection.

The main themes chosen for the new permanent exhibition, identity and rituality, reflect this goal. Both themes are first and foremost concepts, that originate from society and that make it possible to propose a reflection on the volatility and elusiveness of identity and collective identities.

The involvement of local communities happens also by participating in specific projects that are included in displays, as in the case of the photographic project about personal identity, which was carried out between 2013 and 2015 by the photographer Gabriella Meyer who portrayed some fifty people of Leventina. Since then, the photos are inside the permanent exhibition as testimony to the variety of cultures and ways of living in the Valley of Leventina. Visitors can also complete this project by leaving "track" of their visit to the museum, thanks to an installation at the entrance where everyone can digitally take their picture and appear on a giant screen.

A further aspect that allows the preservation and promotion of traditions, knowledge and skills present in local communities are the various listening points scattered along the exhibition containing testimonies gathered by the researcher and linguist Mario Vicari, in the different dialects of the region. The stories of the people interviewed that one can listen to, not only demonstrate the diversity and cultural richness of the spoken language, but they also provide information about the ways of living and local cultural practices of the past. Through active participation, the visitor is also encouraged to discuss specific issues within the temporary exhibitions (visitors can leave their comments in designated areas).

Finally, another aspect that allows you to pass on local knowledge to a wider audience are the courses organized and promoted by the museum, such as those devoted to preparing traditional biscuits in Leventina: the crèfli and spampezie or the dyeing with Indigo. These workshops are held by people who hold the knowledge of these skills and crafts and they are still practising these traditions.

Winter sports culture

Description of the project / practice / program

The project is planned in several stages, each of which individuals or groups of people are involved in different ways. In the first phase, contact is made with key informants and as well as collecting information about the context.

Local knowledge includes knowledge of snow, the territory and the natural dangers besides the different skills in winter sports. The associative aspect related to winter sports can be also found within social practices such as festivals and events. For this reason, the first phase is going to be dedicated by making contact and collecting information through classical methods of social anthropology and in particular by participant observation.

The second phase involves groups and individuals as keepers of knowledge. This phase will be devoted to collecting information, testimonies and material.

This will be followed by a phase in which the material collected will be reworked and presented in the form of exposure. Alongside the exhibition, there is going to be a program of activities that will include conferences, guided tours in alpine skiing resorts and ice-hockey rinks, as well as cultural and sporting winter activities that will engage several clubs and associations both as organisors and as providers of expertise.

Another aspect, which is very important for the program, will be to train some skiing instructors so that they can bring possibly the discourse of the intangible culture linked to winter sports in order to provide continuity in the future to the intangible cultural heritage related to winter sports in Leventina.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

Winter, snow and ice are natural elements that are generally seen as threats to human life. In the alpine resorts, man has always had to adapt to the conditions of a harsh climate. For centuries, man has been able to transform them by exploiting them in his favour and by learning to manage its dangers.

Sliding on snow and ice had provided a huge advantage in transporting heavy goods. Sleds were originally used in order to move heavy loads; the icy terrains served as slides and they made it possible to bring down large tree trunks cut downstream on the slopes. Such skills and knowledge of the harsh conditions allowed its inhabitants to avoid, though not completely, the perils of snow, ice and cold.

With the creation of leisure and the birth of the concept of sports, sliding on the snow or on ice took on a new dimension and became a recreational activity by bringing together people.

In Leventina and in Ticino, these activities were born from the first experiences of the most popular and renowned winter tourist destination in Switzerland such as Davos and St. Moritz. Since then until nowadays, the alpine populations have winter sports instilled in their culture. Locally, this aspect has become part of the collective culture through different forms of behaviour: aggregative, competitive but also individualistic.

Retracing the history of winter sports activities related to the Valley, the exhibition aims to highlight different aspects of the local sporting culture as well as some changes in society and the way of living in nowadays winter sports.

The project of participation forms part of the temporary exhibition with the goal to put emphasis on cultural heritage that gravitates around the practice of winter sports at local level. Through the involvement of members of clubs, associations and instructors, the Levantina Museum intends to initially engage the groups involved in the preparation of the museum as informants. Later, as mediators of their intangible cultural heritage.

CV of the author

Diana Tenconi graduated in social anthropology at the University of Zurich with the thesis: “The impact of the earthquake on the housing culture and on social structure of the built environment of a village in Kutch (India)”. She later worked at the Centre of Dialectology and Ethnography of Canton Ticino, Switzerland and since 2009 she is been the curator of the Museum of Leventina. In 2017 she took on the position of vice-President of the Association of ethnographic museums in Ticino AMET. Since 2010 she has been the writer of the column Peasant Civilization in the weekly magazine Ticinese Farmer. She published: Links between building technologies, post-disaster reconstruction, and gender roles in Gujarat. In: Jennifer E. Duyne Barenstein, Esther Leemann, Post-Disaster Reconstruction and Change: Communities' Perspectives, Boca Raton, FL, USA : CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group, 2013.


  • Practitioners of intangible cultural heritage can be mediators of their own heritage in several ways. They can be interviewed by museum staff and provide content for exhibitions, asked to give workshops in museum spaces, give guided tours, etc. 




22 March 2018 from 14:39 to 14:39



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