Interview with the President Gaetano Adolfo Maria Di Tondo
by Elvio Bordignon
and Margherita Chiara Immordino Tedesco
Adriano Olivetti is a very complex figure, still alive above all in institutional and corporate environments, so much so that he is often mentioned when talking about urgent and modern issues such as sustainability, welfare, culture, innovation and a vision of the future. Today we can rediscover it through initiatives, events and organisations, including the Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti, set up in Ivrea in 1998 on the initiative of the Società Olivetti, in agreement with the Adriano Olivetti Foundation and with the participation of important public and private members. The Association collects, reorganises, preserves, studies and promotes the vast archive heritage concerning the history of the Society and the personalities of the Olivetti Family. This heritage consists of documents, letters, books, newspapers, magazines, posters, drawings, photos, films, audiovisual material, products, models and models and is the subject of systematic work of electronic filing and digitization.
On behalf of the Adriano Olivetti Foundation, the Association also preserves the documentation of other personalities who have had important relations with Olivetti, such as the architect Ludovico Quaroni. The Association has also become an important point of reference for the territory, collecting documentary funds concerning Olivetti’s history that do not come from the Company or the Adriano Olivetti Foundation (we can mention the funds of Emilio Aventino Tarpino, former Olivetti employees and factory trade unions). The Association also provides assistance and advice to scholars and researchers, collaboration with cultural initiatives of private and public bodies, the organization of exhibitions, films, conferences, studies, research and publications aimed at promoting and deepening knowledge of the history and values of Olivetti. In this regard, it should be added that the activity of collection and conservation that began only between 1984 and 1985, i.e. about 80 years after the foundation of the Society, has been impaired because part of the historical documentation has been irretrievably lost.
However, the documentary patrimony has a remarkable quantitative and qualitative consistency and represents an irreplaceable tool for the investigation of the complex historical events of Olivetto and of the profound transformations of the industrial and social environment that have accompanied it. It ranges from the first drawing of the factory in 1895 to documents and catalogue sheets of more recent years, passing through many famous products such as Lettera 22, Divisumma 24, Elea 9003, Program 101, Personal Computer M24, etc.. To this heritage, which has left a deep mark on the economy, technology and culture of our country for over a century, we must add the second important documentary nucleus paid by the Adriano Olivetti Foundation: these are the archives owned by Camillo Olivetti, his son Adriano and the other personalities of the Olivetti family, to which we must add other archives (entrusted to the Foundation and preserved by the Association) such as the archive of the architect Ludovico Quaroni plus a part of the archive of George Friedmann. With the same aim in mind, the Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti also manages and continuously enriches its portal www.storiaolivetti.it.
In addition, at the editions of Il Mulino, the Association has opened its own Series of Studies and Research based on archival materials that explore important issues of the Olivetti story. Finally, at the headquarters of Villa Casana in Ivrea, the Association has set up a permanent exhibition dedicated to the theme of Olivetti’s industrial project, which offers a reduced version of the large exhibition organized in 2008 to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of the Society. It is therefore worth spending some of their time to immerse themselves in the true meaning of the word in a world created not only to produce extraordinary consumer goods and thus generate wealth and well-being, but also to raise the status of women and men of all kinds, culture, social background, race where the power of vision has allowed them to become living witnesses of the Olivetti story. A story that has never disappeared but, on the contrary, thanks to that spirit, is more alive than ever in the new generations that are entering the new world made of Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, Internet of things on the one hand and sustainability, welfare, climate change on the other.
The Olivetti Historical Archive Association seems not to be a reality relegated to a glorious and nostalgic past at all, but rather a living reality projected towards the farthest future. How much is the revolution of digitalization and social networks affecting and contributing to the dissemination of your history, philosophy or vision?
What I always remember to those who work with me, is the duty to pass on to future generations, the value of the immense heritage that we have in charge, evolving day by day, and looking ahead: from dust to life is the daily must, so that nothing is lost, but can be reborn and be an example. Digitization is necessary both for the preservation and use of digital tools and for an immediate, fresh and continuous story. All this is possible also thanks to my double role (President of AASO, and VP in Olivetti) which allows a clear overall view
You are the President of one of the most interactive associations in the world. You are very active in social networks and you are attentive to everything that happens around us today as well as to promoting and attending the many associative activities. What is the road map for the next Olivetti initiatives?
The activities are many and guided for the most part also by Olivetti, through the trade union summarized in #StoriaDiInnovazione, which combines past, present and future as it has been carried out to date since the beginning of the year. The next activities will be consistent with the overall positioning (i.e. Olivetti + AASO) in itinerant mode for Italian cities, recounting values, passion, design, ideas and above all innovation.
She holds the double role of President of the Olivetti Historical Archives Association and Vice President of Institutional and External Relations of Olivetti. Does this mean that you are keeping and keeping the two positions separate or that, on the contrary, you have in mind a project or idea of “fusion” and are therefore working to create a single body?
It is necessary to carry out both roles in the correct way, positively contaminating the story, breaking down the separation walls that existed in the past and creating a homogeneous, fluid and constructive story. A few examples: the exhibition at the Museo del 900 in Milan, or the forthcoming presence at the Turin Technology Festival or at the Modena Philosophy Festival, passing through the installation of the UNESCO plaque in Ivrea … and countless others, are the real demonstration that working together, uniting the souls of the past and the present, we proceed in the right direction. Without knowing our history, we cannot create our future. And in our case, we have a unique and formidable history, which guides us.
I also saw “Achievements” in the social media. I like it because it means that there is a lot of concreteness and awareness in what you do and I find it is not obvious. In this regard, which are the 3 most important objectives achieved (out of the fourteen listed) that have given you the greatest satisfaction and why?
The goals and objectives achieved will probably be even more than the 14 mentioned in a few months. On my Linkedin profile there is a selection of what has been successfully and positively achieved (both as Olivetti and as AASO), all summarized with #HistoryofInnovation. This is certainly the first objective, which contains and summarizes the general path, and that allows not to disperse the energies of communication but to channel and focus them in a clear and unambiguous direction. Topics and objectives (but I invite you to discover them online) range in all areas related to the history of Olivetti, always valid today.
“Embrace the digital revolution” and then “Digital. Future. Now”. A well-defined claim and positioning. What is the connection between the two and therefore what vision do you have in mind for the near future?
Now to the present, where Olivetti is the digital hub of the TIM Group. We look ahead, we follow the technological evolutions that we all hear and read about every day. Digital.future.Now wants to be an effective synthesis of today, being already in the future, as citizens and as companies. The Digital Revolution and the Digital Transformation mark the pace of what is happening in all areas known and emerging, such as IoT, big data, cloud, platforms, blockchain, AI, VR, training.
Renato Lavarini Head of Cabinet of the Mayor of Ivrea, Gaetano Adolfo Maria Di Tondo, Stefano Sertoli Mayor of Ivrea (opening of the exhibition at MUSEO900)