Automobile Museums 2.0?

Alfa Museum

Today, thanks to computers, Web and Cloud we can affirm that memory is almost endless.

Yet – like in Orwell’s worst nightmare – some historical elements that characterize our society, are still alive only thanks to the memory of some individuals.

The risk is that they can disappear, just like the history of some car brands.

The car was born 100 years ago, and we can giggle at the idea to make comparison between a collection of vintage automobiles and the millennial relics of the Cairo Museum, the British Museum or the Louvre, which describe the origin of the world, humanity, art.


The skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex, a Greek amphora or a painting by Caravaggio can trigger ecstasy, but these wonders are intangible in the today’s world.

The car – instead – “belongs physically” to us!

We all drive one, we all have memories that bind us inextricably to the automobile: our first car, the freedom that it has given us, our first… love nest.

Also a car can inflame the Stendhal syndrome.

I think it is important to defend/promote this heritage, a fundamental part in the industrial history of the human kind.

Ferrari e Luraghi

Forty years ago my grandfather Giuseppe Luraghi founded the Alfa Romeo Historical Museumone of the most magnificent car museums in the world – a sacre place in which the visitors could breathe the smell of history, gasoline and leather of 256 cars and 150 engines part of this amazing collection.

Today – after the closure to the public during the last 5 years – this museum has been reopened, completely changed into an aseptic ambient where only 69 cars are exposed (where are the other 190 and the 150 engines?), transformed into a sort of appendix to an adjacent Jeep-FCA dealership.

Exactly as if the Audi Museum (where 450 people work, visited by 500,000 visitors a year) rotates around a Seat/Skoda showroom because they are part of the same VW Group.

Thus we discover that, while the Henry Ford and the BMW Museums are both visited by more than 3 million people a year (more than 10,500 per day) and they win the “Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice”, the “new” Alfa Romeo Historical Museum5 kilometers from the 21 Million visitors of the Milan 2015 Expo, where it is exposed the only New Giulia 2016 viewable at the World – has been visited in the past two months by 20,000 fans, with an average of 350 visitors a day.

Car Delivery

In 2014 the Henry Ford museum developed incomes of 60 million US$ (4 million only in gadgets) and received donations for 100 million (data available in the website), while at the BMW Museum in Munchen they delivered 120,000 new vehicles to customers who have paid a great extra price in order to receive the delivery of their new car in the museum where even Angela Merkel organizes meetings and events. – including the private collections – take a census of more than 1,100 car museums in the World.

Some says: “who ignore the past has no future”, others think that “museums are just a pile of dust”, for others they are a huge source of profits.

I’m worried: when the “guardian angels” holding in their memory the history of a brand will die, many unique and exceptional stories will disappear.


Then I wonder: how should be – in the digital era – the automobile museums?

  1. Places for enthusiasts and collectors, as many brand museums?
  2. Agora of the community to join people together within an entire region, as does the State of Michigan with the Henry Ford Museum?
  3. Centers of marketing, politic and profit as the BMW Museum?
  4. Private collections hidden in the basement of a building?

What’s your opinion?

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  1. Ewald Stein says:

    Dear Mr. Sala,

    You asked for the reader’s opinion on your piece on the future of car museums.

    Well, here are my views and suggestions:

    To start with, car musea should be places where old cars – valuable or not – and everything that goes with it like parts, documentation, information, knowledge, skills, models etc., are being saved for posterity.

    They should be places where as many cars as possible simply are being displayed with maybe others in storeage.

    They should be a places of joy for car lovers, a place of inspiration for not-really-car-lovers,
    a place where young and youngest people find a new interest or better: even a new hobby (cars!),
    or maybe get a boost for a latent interest in cars.

    They should be places where the hands of people from young to old get itchy to start working on an old car of their own.

    They should be places where car-loving people want to get involved with old cars, if not as an owner, then in disciplines like mechanics, body works, history, modelling, car clubs etc. etc..

    They could inspire especially young people to find a new satisfying way to spend their spare time and achive new skills and contacts on the way;

    They simply should be places where car lovers like to meet and maybe take lesser interested people with them.

    Car musea could be places where maybe non-related events are organised. This brings additonal income obviously but also makes vistors of those events aware of a world they may never have looked at or were aware of.

    And all this is in order to create and guarantuee a future for our automobile past and present.

    We do want a future for the car hobby and have others share the joy, don’t we?

    If you need a hand, I’ll be glad to assist. It is my hobby.

    • Maurizio Sala says:

      Hey Ewald, thanks for the time you dedicated to this article and to my opinions.
      Thanks a lot also for your interesting contribution regarding the “future” of the automobile museums.
      Yes, I agree with all your thoughts, but I think it’s not enough to guarantee a future for our automobile past and present.
      I’ll be honored to accept your hand (and also the one of other enthusiastics of the automobile history): I look forward to hear at you in the next weeks.
      I would like to share with you a couple of ideas that I have regarding a project I would like to manage here in Italy with some friends owning a stunning collection (open to the public)…
      Please, let’s keep in touch.

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