ITALY is harnessing new technology to put it in the European vanguard of the conservation, restoration and management of museums and monuments.
The project, called Parnasso after the home of the Muses, aims to create a network of research in universities, restoration and conservation institutes and to transfer new technologies to museums, restorers or local authorities managing monuments or art collections.
The ministry for universities and scientific research is working hand in hand with the ministry for cultural heritage and the environment to finance selected projects for a total of 250 billion lire (Pounds 385 million) with the hope of extra private-sector funding.
Parnasso should "place Italy in the European vanguard and render competitive and exportable patents and management models produced in our country", said a university ministry spokesperson.
Funding applications were submitted in January and successful applicants will be chosen in April.
Proposals have come from groups of restorers or researchers, single firms or ad hoc partnerships between firms and university departments.
Giovanni Ragone, a consultant to university minister Luigi Berlinguer and one of the men behind the programme, said: "The projects we choose will cover a wide spectrum of applications, for example, the use of satellite photography to discover archaeological sites, or the development of new software for the management of libraries and archives.
"Another is the development of new remote communications techniques to promote cultural tourism and to then manage the flow of tourists to places of interest. For instance the setting-up of a website where someone in, say, Helsinki can preview a museum in Italy, plan a visit and can then make a reservation."
Parnasso is billed as a prelude to an even more ambitious project scheduled for 1999.
"Italy is now trying to promote a package of about a dozen new European initiatives that would assign priority to supporting cultural conservation.
"If these are approved, there will be a substantial amount of financial support, in particular for projects like the 1999 successor to Parnasso," Professor Ragone said.