William Bainbridge* - Durham University
This paper addresses the intractable question of global mountain heritage as developed and displayed in the Messner Mountain Museum network (MMM), located in the Italian Eastern Alps (2002-2010) - MMM Firmian, 'Man's Encounter with the Mountains'; MMM Monte Rite, 'The Museum in the Clouds'; MMM Juval, 'The Magic of the Mountain'; MMM Ortles, 'The Terror of Ice and Darkness'; MMM Ripa, 'The Mountain Heritage'. Distinct from local initiatives emerging in the wake of the inscription of the Dolomites in the UNESCO World Heritage List (2009), Reinhold Messner's thematic approach cultivates the utopia of weaving conflicting cultural memories into a globally shared mountain heritage. Visitors find themselves in sites that are already culturally charged for their natural beauty and historical significance, beholding a kaleidoscopic repertoire of mountain practices that range from the conquests of Western mountaineering to the mystical experience of Tibetan Buddhism, from Alpine memorabilia to mountain painting, from ethnographic rituals to ecologically-minded tourism. The paper presents the outcomes of a visitor-oriented qualitative investigation, conducted over a three-month period (interviews, visitor book analysis, questionnaires, participant observation), collecting and evaluating people's reactions to Messner's communicative strategy and globalized ethos. The investigation registered the emotional response of visitors, the opinions of local people belonging to different Dolomitic ethnic groups, and the perceived clash between local and global mountain heritage across invisible cultural borders. The results provide the image of a resilient debatable land in its on-going transition from a controversial monument of contested identities to a universal paradigm of mountain heritage.