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The Gerolamo Gaslini Archival Fonds of the Gaslini Foundation in Genoa
Review by Elisabetta Arioti

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The Gerolamo Gaslini Archival Fonds
Gerolamo Gaslini: the Entrepreneur
The Contents of the Archives
The Reorganization of the Archives

The Gerolamo Gaslini Archival Fond

Recently, the extensive work of inventory and reorganization of the Gaslini fonds has been brought to conclusion by Alessandro Lombardo, Donatella Mezzani and Remo Viazzi from the Ansaldo Foundation in Genoa on behalf of the Gaslini Foundation. The inventory, for the moment only a handwritten version, will soon be available online and, one hopes, a printed edition will be forthcoming as well. This extraordinary collection contains records of great interest to Italian economic and industrial history.

Gerolamo Gaslini: the Entrepreneur
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Gerolamo Gaslini (b. Monza 1877 – d. Genoa 1964) was one of the leading Italian entrepreneurs of the past century. He was born into a family that owned a business for the pressing of seed oils. However, as a young man, he separated from the family business in order to start a series of commercial, financial and industrial activities that made him, around the mid-1930s, the first producer of seed oil in Italy. Afterwards, he diversified his investments and took control of a large group of companies covering a wide range of business areas in the food sector.
In this same period, Gerolamo Gaslini became an important philanthropist. In 1921, he donated a large sum of money to the Civil Hospital in Genoa to create a hospital for the care, and assistance of children. The Giannina Gaslini Children’s Hospital, dedicated to his daughter who died at the age of twelve, was founded as an independent institute in 1931 and opened its doors to its young patients in 1938. Nowadays, it is one of the main children’s hospitals in Italy. In 1949, Gerolamo Gaslini started up the Foundation to which he gave all capital stock of Gaslini SA and other shareholdings--practically the entirety of his wealth. All donations were to be used for the development and maintenance of the children’s hospital that still bears his daughter’s name.

The Contents of the Archives
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The archives, today preserved in the Gaslini Foundation, bears witness to Gerolamo’s many activities. The records that document his entrepreneurial activity are notably detailed and complete. These collections include not only the records of Gaslini SA, but also those of many companies in which he held controlling interest: Angelo Arrigoni Caseifici e Cremerie, Genepesca, Oleificio e Saponificio Arrigoni, Biscotti Wamar, and Fondi Rustici, to name a few. In addition to the companies working in the food sector, there are also collections regarding banks, real-estate agencies, department stores, for a total of more than 26 companies. Together with these related record fonds (also of great importance because, for some of these companies, they are the only existing records), is included Gaslini’s general correspondence, organized largely by correspondents’ names.
The records concerning the founding and subsequent work of the Istituto Giannina Gaslini up to 1970 are highly interesting. They contain the files of the Foundation, copies of the board of directors’ minutes, extensive correspondence—both general to the Foundation and private, between Gerolamo and various managers and other authorities. Also noteworthy are the documents related to the controversy between the Istituto and Genoa University for the cancellation of agreements related to the Paediatric and Orthopaedic University Clinics, which, for some time, had their offices in the Istituto, and for the repeal of measures concerning the managing of the Psychology and Child-Welfare University Institutes. In addition to the administrative records, the Foundation also preserves plans and projects for the enlargement and the modernization of the pavilions that made up the hospital.
The archival fonds also preserve records related to the Gaslini Foundation’s creation, its correspondence and the files for the management of its real estate properties.

The private records consist of 21 envelopes containing above all the correspondence of Gerolamo with his family, in particular with his brother Egidio and his sons. One also finds material referring to two crucial momentsof his life: first, the procedure for his impeachment from his Senate post because of his support for the Fascist regime and the inquiry on his war profits and, more positively, the conferring of an honorary degree in Medicine and Surgery, as well as, the awarding of the keys of the city of Genoa.
In addition to the paper records, the Foundation also preserves a number of series of other media including films about the oil mill of Trieste and the Children’s Institute. There is also a large photographic fonds containing 16,141 photographs and negatives that illustrate different moments in the life of the Gaslini family; pictures of the Canali villa designed by Nino Coppedè and subsequently bought by Gerolamo; the building and running of the Children’s Institute and the entrepreneurial activity of the Gaslini Group (plants, products, manufacturing processes, shows and exhibitions); advertising material of the companies of the group; some audio registrations concerning the activity of the Institute and a small press review.

The Reorganization of the Archives
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This extensive record fonds, consisting of 396 envelopes, (excluding those already described) was preserved in different places: partly in the office of Gaslini himself, partly in the offices of the Gaslini SA in Genoa, partly in the Foundation where now all the records are kept. At the beginning of the task of inventory of the archives, the records were only partially organised
For this reason, the reorganizers decided to divide the records into four main sections.

They contain: firstly, the personal records; secondly, the records concerning the Foundation Gerolamo Gaslini, but maintaining the series (that was already well organized) in the original order—in particular, that of the general correspondence organized according to sender; thirdly, that of the management of real-estate properties of Gaslini SA, sorted in alphabetical order according to the name of the property (both these series are in the section Entrepreneurial Activities); and lastly, the general Correspondence of the Istituto Giannina Gaslini, organized in accordance with a filing plan.
In every section the records are organized in series and, where necessary, in sub-series: in particular that related to the entrepreneurial activity is divided according to the companies, apart from the general correspondence already described.
This rigorous task required many long hours of meticulous work. We hope that it may provide a starting point for a detailed reconstruction of the entrepreneurial history of a noteworthy Foundation and the remarkable man behind it, Gerolamo Gaslini.

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