27 May-October 11, 2015
In the year of Expo Milano 2015, the core theme of which was "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life" the Museo Friulano di Storia Naturale, in collaboration with the Museo Etnografico, presented an exhibition that focused attention on one of the most important foods in the human diet: cereal, and in particular wheat.
The choice of wheat is by no means accidental given the immense impact this cereal (together with barley and, to a lesser extent, oats and rye) has had both on human history and that of the countryside. Indeed it was the cultivation of this very crop in the Middle East around ten thousand years ago which was to initiate agricultural development across the Western world. The profound transformation of the countryside, the growth of villages and later cities, the increasing complexity of human society, we owe all of these to the development of agriculture, starting right from the so-called "Neolithic package" (domesticated animals and plants) – in the latter case, namely durum, hard and soft wheat, broken spelt, and barley).
Until relatively recently, wheat was the most widely cultivated crop in Friuli Venezia Giulia, but has since been replaced by heads of corn, which today characterize the local agricultural landscape. Today's crops are tied more to economic interests that the food needs of the population and this has provoked and continues to provoke serious consequences for the natural environment and biodiversity, as well as having a profound effect on eating habits and lifestyles.
In addition to analyzing the history of cereals from a botanic point of view, the exhibition also highlighted the impact of modern cereal production both on the natural environment and on our culture, providing us with food for thought regarding the future of land management, the sustainability of our current lifestyles and the possible scenarios a return to traditional cultivation might offer.