The Don Lorenzo Milani archive was formally established at the Foundation for the Religious Sciences John XXIII in 1974. It came about when Milani’s mother, Alice Weiss Milani Comparetti, issued a circular in her name and her children’s names, Adriano and Elena, addressed to “the friends of Don Lorenzo Milani.” In this letter she conveyed the family’s desire: “in order that the legacy of his word and example not be lost and may be a common good for all, the Lorenzo Milani Collection shall be created at the Institute for Religious Sciences in Bologna. This collection shall gather and preserve writings, letters, and testimonies that directly or indirectly enlighten his character and his work.” Because of its reputation for rigor and professionalism, the Foundation was deemed the appropriate place to entrust Don Lorenzo’s papers in order that they may be studied.
Since 1974 the archive has been enriched by further collections as well as the donation of other documents, both in original and copy (the Elena Milani Collection, Pecorini Collection, Pirelli Brambilla Collection, Cartoni Collection, Francuccio Gesualdi Collection, and many others). A digitalization project was begun in order to bring this wealth of information together into a single and comprehensive archive. The 30-year research workshop on the writings of Don Milani and the ongoing collection of papers have given the Foundation the opportunity to propose a critical edition of Don Milani’s texts. The Opera Omnia will be published by Meridiani Mondadori at the end of 2016. This project’s value received official recognition in November 2015 by the Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturale e del Turismo (the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism), which promoted the National Edition, directed by Alberto Melloni, and created a scientific commission to follow it.
The results of the critical edition were presented in advance at the Don Lorenzo Milani convention ” Al centro della Chiesa, non ai margini”, held October 31, 2015, at the Gabinetto Vieusseux in Florence, with the patronage of the archdiocese of Florence.
Contributors: Federico Ruozzi, Alberto Melloni
THE HISTORY OF THE RESEARCH WORKSHOP ON DON MILANI
Following the establishment of the Don Milani archive in Bologna, the Foundation’s first projects were clearly aimed at organizing and inventorying the material in an attempt to recreate the traditional working tools of Milani as historian. In 1980, in the second issue of the journal “Cristianesimo nella storia”, Giuseppe Battelli published the inventory and summary of Don Milani’s epistolary, after having provided an in-depth description of his first public speech presented in April of the same year at the celebrated Florence convention. The inventory, summary and description all represent important sources for the study of the character and works of Don Lorenzo Milani. In September 1987, Alberto Melloni and Battelli combined the fruits of the labor with the potential provided by applying information technology to the humanities, and specifically to the historical-religious fields. They thus created four large volumes of concordance, generated by precise study of Milani’s letters. That is, they produced the alphabetical repertoire of the words of a work (in this case, his epistolary), with references and citations of the places where they occur within the works.
In 1990, the critical edition of his letters to his mother was published. It was edited by Battelli and published by Marietti in the Foundation’s catalogue (Testi e ricerche di scienze religiose, n. 5). Here the initial results of the extensive preparatory work on the archive were opened to the public. This was later followed in 1994 by the work of Massimo Toschi on Pastoral Experiences (Don Lorenzo Milani e la sua chiesa. Documenti e studi). The first work gave the public a view of the correspondence between Lorenzo and his mother, which had been partially published in 1973. Battelli offered readers 432 letters, of which 256 were previously unpublished. In addition, he corrected transcription errors, restored text that had been cut (published with omissions), linguistic and syntactic modifications made over time, and the omissions of names. It also offered a note system with an extensive series of corollary information that allowed for better understanding and contextualization of his epistolary and writings, which Fortini defined as “sacred oratory”.
The second work by Toschi reconstructs the relationship between the Milani, prior of Barbiana, and the Florentine church. This was made possible by new documents that came to light, preserved in the diocese’s archive, as well as copies of correspondence between the Curia, the Holy See and the Holy Office (copies of all are now held in the Milani archive in Bologna).
The research workshop on Don Milani continues into the 21st century with new projects and vitality. The ongoing idea focuses on peeling away the prejudices and apologia that may cling to the figure of Milani, misleading assessments that have risked detracting from or watering down the strength and typicality of his work. On the forty-year anniversary of his death, the rearrangement and inventorying of his papers lead to the creation of a biographical documentary broadcast on Raiuno, “Lorenzino don Milani”, produced by Melloni, Fabio Nardelli, and Federico Ruozzi. This production marked a new phase, especially in terms of divulgation and popularization. Recent years have also seen new collaborations with the various groups dedicated to Milani, especially the Centro Formazione e Ricerca Don Lorenzo Milani (Center for Training and Research “Don Lorenzo Milani”) and Scuola di Barbiana di Vicchio, along with the Vicchio library. These three groups contributed to the publication of a volume edited by Liana Fiorani, “Don Lorenzo Milani. Il destino di carta. Rassegna stampa 1949-2005” for il Mulino in the Foundation’s catalogue dedicated to source editions (Fonti e strumenti di ricerca). The 900-page volume is an organized inventory of all articles by and about Don Milani, spanning over 56 years, impressively offered in their entirety in a digital, searchable format.
In those years, Giorgio Pecorini, Miguel Martì and José Louis Corzo had pushed the Foundation to retake the lead on the project and the Milani workshop. Together with Melloni, the Foundation’s secretary, a letter was drafted and delivered, once again, “to the friends of Don Milani”, just as his mother had done in 1974. This new appeal echoed the profound motivations that had moved his mother and family members back then, and once again moved a new group of Milani scholars: “to avoid the shame on the part of this first generation of scholars to deliver fragments of his work to the future”.
That meeting attempted to reunite all those who played a role in cultivating the memory of Don Lorenzo. At the end, an open group was founded whose aim was “to favor the collaboration of work and study and not let Don Lorenzo’s wealth of faith and writing lie fallow”. The two cornerstones of this collaboration were the creation of a virtual archive of writings and images by and about Don Milani that would be shared – with respect to certain limitations decided upon by all – and to work on the critical edition of Milani’s Opera Omnia, which for decades had been requested.