Life after the Warburg: Allegra Baggio Corradi
After completing her MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture and then PhD at the Warburg, alumna Allegra Baggio Corradi went on to work in publishing and research at The International Research Centre for the Culture of Childhood at the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense.
We caught up with Allegra to find out more about her work, her experience at the Warburg, and why she recommends the Institute as a place to study.
Please could you tell us a bit about your current role at the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense?
At the Brera, I am the coordinator of CIRCI, The International Research Centre for the Culture of Childhood founded by James M. Bradburne in 2020. CIRCI operates on two different levels: research and experimental productions. To conduct our research, we receive, acquire or discover relevant donations which we study, catalogue and translate into books, exhibitions and workshops. So far, we have worked on the Adler collection of Soviet children’s books and the Prutscher collection of Viennese children’s books. One of our aims is to make a concrete contribution to the domain of open access by digitising the books we study for anyone to consult. In terms of experimentation, we recently produced “Peregrin and the Giant Fish”, a marionette opera inspired by a novel by Sigmund Freud’s niece Tom Seidmann-Freud, for which we commissioned an original score and libretto, and new wooden marionettes from the historical Compagnia Carlo Colla in Milan. My role at CIRCI is to run and/or coordinate workshops linked to the ongoing research projects, find collections of future interest, conduct research about the collections and most importantly, turn the research into books and other publications. At the heart of the work are the twin concerns of translation and language.
Are there any particular highlights you could tell us about?
For the Prutscher collection, I had the chance to run a children’s bookmaking workshop with designer Bruno Munari’s former assistant Beba Restelli. I had to relearn how to speak and look and question like a child. I loved it.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learnt so far during your career?
That you can only disclose meaning when you speak the language.
What did you study during your time at the Warburg Institute?
I completed the MA in Art History, Curatorship and Renaissance Culture from the Warburg Institute and the National Gallery before doing a PhD in early modern history of ideas with Guido Giglioni and Charles Burnett. I studied the Dialogues of Niccolò Leonico Tomeo, a collection of twelve texts about the construction of visual and written language published in Venice in 1524. All along, the notion of ‘soul’ was my focus for I was interested in the pre-Enlightenment understanding of the faculties allowing the mind to move from convention to invention at the intersection of science and art, reason and superstition.
What did you enjoy most during your time at the Institute?
Being a shelver on the fourth floor and interning in the Photographic Collection. Ordering the books means grasping the logic behind their disposition, and the connections between them: it’s like entering the library’s mind. Amid the filing cabinets, the iconographic eye draws connections, traces lineages, reads images as texts, maps cultural exchange routes, and learns to appreciate repetition and symbolism as means to grasp why everything exists everywhere, but not all at once (i.e., the afterlife). I loved both jobs, and from both I learned techniques that are still extremely relevant to my current job as a researcher and publisher.
Did your experience at the Warburg help to equip you for your career?
In so many ways! I learned that images are texts (as a student). That the development of a personal visual literacy often depends on quantity rather than quality (as an intern in the photo collection). That quantity alone is able to generate meaning (as a shelver). That meaning is an imperfect host (as a tutor).
What is the best piece of advice you have received?
What are your future plans?
My future lies with the book.
Together with James Bradburne, Clive Britton, Ilaria Bollati, Alice Peach and the collective Libri Finti Clandestini I am creating a research centre for artist’s books in Milan called Shibboleth that focuses on language.
For CIRCI I’m running a research project with the Exercise Book Archive in Milan on propaganda notebooks; a project with the Fondazione Palazzo Magnani in Reggio Emilia on puppets and the Avant-Garde; and next year, a project on GDR children’s books from a Berlin collection.
I am also producing an installation at the Biblioteca Riccardiana in Florence together with paper conservator Renza Bani on the visual semiotics of the 17th century Florentine binder Giuseppe Pagani, which will open in October 2023.
Allegra Baggio Corradi is a publisher and researcher. During her PhD, she trained as a publisher at the artist’s book cooperative Rorhof in Bolzano. She then moved to Milan, where she currently runs The International Research Centre for the Culture of Childhood at the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense alongside James M. Bradburne. In 2023 she founded Shibboleth, a publishing collective focusing on language.