The restoration of Forte Belvedere - Panzerwerk Gschwent included the setup inside of an updated exhibition dedicated to the local and international repercussions of the First World War.
A problematic choice, because the restored fortress was already a museum exhibit itself: the museum represents actually the museum of itself.
Inserting a traditional exhibition of documents and show-pieces could have distorted the impact on the original environment, which, on the other hand, for structural reasons, set strict limits on the display of sensitive artifacts and original documents.
Similarly, the dampness of the environment made it difficult to install multi-media tools such as multi-projections, videos and CDs that are usually employed in analogous structures. However, Fort Belvedere - Werk Gschwent, once restored, would have become the main element of the historical park of the Great Plateaus of the Trentino: it was therefore worth endowing it with a complex and well-articulated museum offer that is also nationally and internationally advanced.
The idea was, therefore, not just to exhibit photographs and artefacts, but to present an updated historical account (including photographs, artefacts and other items) on the First World War (with texts in Italian, German and English) in order to combine local history with the events and the general problems of the conflict, which in some places offer to the visitor suggestions and settings for an immediate consideration on the concept of "war" itself.
The route of the Museum of Fort Belvedere - Werk Gschwent develops, on the three floors of the blockhouses, three different topics (necessarily linked) connected with the local and international reality of the Great War.
- The ground floor exhibition rooms are concerned with the explanation of the origins and peculiarities of the system of strongholds of the plateaus and in particular, in this context, with the history of the fortress, from its origins to its recent restoration. An exhibition room on the ground floor is dedicated to the history of the Lavarone community during the conflict.
- On the first floor are shown the military actions and the war events in which the plateaus were protagonist in the broader context of the Italian-Austrian war. Adequate space is reserved for the history of the stronghold and of its garrison, while a significant part of the exhibition is devoted to the war in the mountains, the so-called "White War".
- The second floor is dedicated to the general topics of the First World War. This is an educational section that deals with the causes and a brief time-scale of the European war, with emphasis on the trench warfare, on the daily life of the combatants, on the "industrial war", on the propaganda and on the memories of the conflict.
In this educational and popular context, to emphasize the general topics of the conflict, the atmosphere of the trench has been recreate and the visitor can experience the spaces and the living conditions of the soldiers on the front-lines.
In addition to the usual historical presentation through the use of texts, images and artefacts, the exhibition route presents some symbolical moments, reminding visitors of war life in the stronghold and the deep meaning of the concept of war itself.
War means death and destruction: the first exhibition room (“Just before”) reveals its true meaning when the blooming lawn on the ground floor is transformed into a desolate battlefield on the first floor (“Just afterwards”). The lawn is, in fact, covered by dust and war surpluses, in which everything has the "Color of the war".
War means blood and mutilation of the bodies (very vulnerable bodies "Without a uniform") on which the doctors fuss often without achieving anything; similarly the infirmary of the stronghold presents some of doctors and nurses’ everyday tools during the conflict: the operating table, the bloodstained stretcher, the pall accompanying the dead in their last journey, who were temporarily accommodated in anonymous zinc coffins. In these cases the stronghold, "a museum of itself” so to speak, performs and reveals its many war functions, such as the tunnels leading to the front blockhouses and the partially rebuilt battery blocks, or the easily identifiable optical observation system that, through the remains of a simple but efficient communication network (through flashes of lightning), enable the visitors to receive a visual account of the close connection within the system of strongholds of the highlands.
Other rooms present the daily life of the garrison of the fort, such as the remains of the kitchen or of one of the many dorms simply furnished with iron camp beds and furnishings. The dorm was the one hit by the Italian artillery in 1916 and badly reconstructed with stones and concrete by soldiers of the fort.
With regard to the exhibition, considering the relative small space available, the decision was taken to focus on the communicative and symbolic aspect of the findings (original uniforms, weapons, war surpluses, items, documents dated 1914-1918) in relation with the topic dealt with in the different rooms of the museum.
This way the historical presentation interlocks with the suggestions evoked by the different findings and the content that the museum wants to offer the visitor is richer.
It should finally be said that most of the exhibited findings come from recent acquisitions of the Municipality of Lavarone, that in the last years has enriched the collections and the deposits of the museum. The findings acquired from collectors and private individuals and those coming from the original collections of the stronghold have been restored in order to preserve and to adequately and safely exhibit them in a modern museum, adequate to the renewed demands of a public who never ceases to devote great interest and attention to the historical issues of World War I.
Moreover, the Museum of Fort Belvedere - Gschwent, born in summer 2002, has to equip in order to present itself as living museum, able to communicate with similar national and international structures, as well as to attract the attention of experts and of the general public as an essential point of reference within the historical park of the tridentine plateaus, without neglecting specific and popular educational purposes. These aims prompt the museum to deal with the school system and the wide reality of cultural and free-time associationism, offering adequate cultural routes to better appreciate history, culture and the different opportunities offered by the area in which it operates.