On October 1st this exhibition re-opened and I could speak with Marinella Monachella – head of corporate training - who shared her impressions being back to the new normal.
DSE: There are some DiD venues which are supported by strong organizations which helped them to cope with the pandemic. I think this is also the case with DiD Milan. Nevertheless, there were still many difficulties. What have been the biggest troubles during the pandemic at DiD Milan?
MM: The Institute for the Blind of Milan played a fundamental role in sustaining Dialogue in the Dark through the inclusion of the employees of the exhibition in other areas of the organization.
One of the difficulties we had was the reimbursement of the many events that had been sold before the pandemic: dinners, aperitifs, escape room, theater, tours, and schools.
We have re-opened with the classical exhibition tour and with some corporate events, but the other challenge that awaits us is to plan all the other events which require new methods due to the Covid regulations.
Another aspect to consider is the lack of staff. Many collaborators who previously worked in the ticket office and in the reception, found other jobs. Finding new staff and giving them the right training is difficult and demanding.
DSE: Dialogue in the Dark was closed 18 months or even more in Milan. How did you keep the visually impaired employees highly motivated?
MM: On the one hand, you have to find the motivation within yourself, and our guides have always nourished the hope of returning to guide our visitors; on the other hand, this personal motivation must be stimulated and maintained.
We did it by involving everyone to make their contribution by investing especially in communication: for many months we have kept the thought towards Dialogue alive in the minds of our visitors.
In some moments, some of us were an example for the other team members and pulled them into the "madness" so that we could continue, even finding outlandish and at the same time brilliant ideas.
DSE: We know you have put a great effort on the re-opening. How did you prepare for that?
MM: The first of October is the date that many of us will remember as a rebirth!
Only people with a Green Certificate can enter the exhibition and they must wear a mask.
We took some measurements: Provisions of tactile signs - ropes with knots have been fixed along the entire perimeter of the Dialogue at a distance of one meter from each other, to be used exclusively for easy access between the rooms. Sanitation by means of active ozone machines, hand sanitizers in any environment, and the bar serves only packaged drinks and straws.
Due to the restrictions we could not use some features of the exhibition such as the boat, the market or touching the coffee beans. This limit has prompted us to think outside the box. In fact, together with the guides, we have made a more conceptual evaluation of the possibility of exploiting each environment according to its greatest potential. For example: the park becomes the awakening of all the senses or the sea area gives greater insights into the ability to imagine through the stimulation of sounds.
DSE: One of the biggest fears within the DiD network in the world is the visitors reaction. Will they be willing to come back, or not. How was the visitors’ response?
MM: The turnout of visitors is excellent, and this pushes us to restart with the other activities still on hold.
DSE: And what was the reaction of the blind guides to the re-opening?
MM: It was one of great enthusiasm and adaptability. No one has ever expressed anxiety or fear, not even me who have an autoimmune disease!!!
We certainly act with prudence and respect for the rules, and this allows us to resume a different normality.
DSE: What is your vision on the future of DiD?
MM: For the future, our approach is contained in one word: adaptability.
The "moment" has become the norm, so we still follow our motto: "If there is Dialogue, there is no Darkness.”
The interview was conducted by José "Pepe" Macías for DSE.