Italy is promoting an initiative within UNESCO which goes beyond the concept of "museum" in the classical sense of the word.
As part of the International Hydrological Program (IHP), Italy has proposed establishing the "Global Network of Water Museums" under the auspices of UNESCO. The project currently involves over 60 museums and research centres in various parts of the world with a potential catchment area of over 5 million visitors.
The initiative was set up in 2017 by the Ca’ Foscari University, the Centro Civiltà dell’Acqua, the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science and Culture in Europe in Venice and the Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO. It was commended by numerous countries wishing to contribute to a raised awareness of water challenges to ensure a sustainable future for the younger generations, in line with the goals of the new United Nations Development Agenda.
As illustrated by Ambassador Vincenza Lomonaco during the presentation of the initiative to the IHP Council, Water Museums are places where the richness and uniqueness of our country's invaluable water heritage are brought to fruition. Italy’s heritage is one of culture and knowledge and spans from the age of the Etruscans, the Romans, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance to the present day. The knowledge involved constitutes a formidable resource to cope with the hydrological and water resource management challenges the international community faces.
Italy has confirmed its leadership in the conservation and transmission of both tangible and intangible heritage to future generations, also in terms of water culture. The Italian Network of Museums currently consists of 11 sites, and will expand to include Italian water cities. These cities will be places of significant (tangible and intangible) water and historical heritage. In addition to Venice and its lagoon, the network will comprise Milan with its Navigli, Bologna with its water canals, Rome with its aqueducts, Comacchio with its saltworks, Palermo and Naples with their underground channels. It represents a unique heritage that can also attract tourism.