The Centre for Lasallian Research and Resources – A popular biography of Jean-Baptiste deLa Salle is a hit at the Second Italian Conference of Public History.

The Centre for Lasallian Research and Resources – A popular biography of Jean-Baptiste deLa Salle is a hit at the Second Italian Conference of Public History.

This year once again, our Lasallian Library took part in the great Italian gathering of Public History, which met in Pisa for the second time from the 11th to the 15th of June. It was an intense week full of events, displays, conferences and panel discussions.

‘Put History to Work’ was the motto chosen by the members of the Italian Association of Public History. In this conference, they aimed to create occasions for meetings and discussions among people working with and on the past regarding the ways in which history is present in society from universities to public squares, in ‘highbrow’ and popular culture and in everyday life.

The fields of activity are numerous, because the need for history is a feature that cuts across the whole of contemporary society. It is seen in the variety of communities that fall within the range of citizenship, each with its own memories. It is seen in historians and archeologists, in local administrators, museum curators, exhibitions, archives and libraries, data managers in business firms, people who work in the informations industry, in all those who are passionate about reconstructions and revivals.

The Centre for Lasallian Research and Resources joined in this very interesting exhibition and presented the work being done in the Lasallian Library and Archives and in the Lasallian Museum of the Casa Generalizia in Rome. It displayed a poster inscribed with the words “St. Jean-Baptiste deLa Salle, pathways of openness. When lives intersect and are transformed”. The project of public history which we presented was in fact concerned with the biography of our holy Founder.

Jean-Baptiste de La Salle died in Rouen on the 7th of April 1719. He left behind as a heritage two great achivements, namely the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and a network of twenty-two Christian schools spread throughout France plus one school in Rome.

To commemorate the tercentenary of his death, we have told the story through the perspective of the personal experience of Brother Jean Jacquot, who was active throughout the first forty years of the Institute. The life of De La Salle is presented as a series of encounters in the complex setting of the reign of Louis XIV, the Roi Soleil.

We approached the biography as an exercise in storytelling in which Brother Jean Jacquot speaks in the first person. Through his words we reconstruct a past which is relevant today and continues to look to the future.

The final version will be presented in EPUB pop-up format accompanied by historical references, a glossary, prints and pictures to help the reader get a feel for the setting of France at the end of the sixteenth and the start of the seventeenth centuries. The story text is simple and suited to modern communications technology.

The Lasallian Library was the only representative of the Church participating in the conference, and the biography of Jean Baptiste de La Salle was presented alongside those of personages of great historical significance such as Giuseppe Mazzini and others.

In addition to showing the work of the Centre for Lasallian Research and Resources, we also presented the portal ‘BeWeb’ (Beni Ecclesiastici in Web) the first transversal portal for the cultural assets of the Church.

‘BeWeb’ is the window which displays the ongoing work of drawing up a systematic inventory of the Church’s patrimony, historical, artistic and architectural, as found in archives and libraries. The work of listing the possessions is being carried forward by the dioceses of Italy and other bodies responsible for the Church’s cultural assets, including our own library, archives and museum.

Anna Cascone
Librarian – Centre for Lasallian Research and Resources
Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools- Rome

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