Mumac Museum celebrates its 10th anniversary


To honour the 10th anniversary of the Mumac Museum, BeanScene speaks to manager Barbara Foglia about transforming invisible machines into works of art.

When people visit the Louvre in Paris, they go to appreciate centuries of fine art. When people visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York, they admire one of the largest collections of modern art, and when they visit the Mumac Museum of Coffee Machines in Milan, they witness the history and cultural phenomenon of espresso machine manufacturing. But the reality is, they discover so much more.

The museum was first commissioned in 2012 to celebrate Gruppo Cimbali’s centenary. Architect Paolo Balzanelli and Valerio Cometti of V12 Design were the team responsible for transforming the former spare parts warehouse into a historical masterpiece.

“We can therefore call Mumac ‘the’ coffee machine museum. It is the only one of its kind in the world, which resulted from the union of two passions and two collections: that of Maurizio Cimbali [Cimbali Group President] and Enrico Maltoni, the world’s leading collector of professional espresso machines,” says Barbara.

The Cimbali family’s private collection has been preserve over time, from the first machine produced in the 1930s to the present day, encompassing primarily La Cimbali and Faema brands.

Enrico Maltoni’s collection is full of unique pieces from espresso machine brands that have shaped the history of the industry. This includes the original Pavoni Ideale built on 1901 Bezzera’s patent, produced in 1905; the 1948 Gaggia Classica, the first lever machine to produce espresso coffee with crema; the gleaming Faema Saturno created in the late 1940s and early 1950s; and the D.P 47 designed in 1947 by Gio Ponti for La Pavoni in 1947. This machine was untraceable until only a few years ago. Its discovery is considered one of Enrico Maltoni’s most exciting acquisitions.

“[It is] unquestionably the most prized and important piece in the collection,” Barbara says. “There are only two examples in the world and the one in Mumac is the only model that is on permanent public display. The other belongs to a private collector.”

The museum holds around 300 machines, of which approximately a third are on display. The others are available on rotation within the exhibition rooms or for loan both nationally and internationally.

The museum’s best pieces have been lent to museums including the Triennale and ADI Design Museum in Milan, the Museo do Café in Santos in Brazil, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in the Louvre, Paris, and the Deutsches Museum in Munich, among others.

The collection is continuously expanding with new acquisitions each year, making the heritage of the museum ever more comprehensive with the display of historical machines and contemporary models.

At the heart of the museum is the “exploded view” of the La Cimbali M100 installation, which took proportionally longer to design and create than to build the entire museum. The work of art displays the M100 disassembled into hundreds of pieces, suspended in the air with steel wires in a “perfect, yet precarious balance”.

Designer Valerio Cometti says if the pressure to build the museum wasn’t already enough, he came up with the idea for the exploded M100 which he then had to deliver.

“So many people underestimate the complexity of a coffee machine because it’s such a familiar item. When visitors reach the ‘exploded M100’, it helps them understand the coffee machines in a different perspective and its level of complexity. Twenty minutes ago, they saw how coffee machines were dragged along on a cart by a horse. And in the past 100 years, look what it’s become,” Valerio says.

At first, Mumac was exclusively open to visiting Gruppo Cimbali customers. It was only in late 2012 that it opened to the public with guided tours, workshops for children, university and master’s students, and temporary exhibitions. The year 2016 saw the establishment of the Mumac historical coffee library and the Mumac Academy with training centre and cupping room for knowledge and expertise to be shared.

Mumac also comes to life as a reception venue. It hosts machine loans to international museums, film and television productions, conferences, lectures, and trade fairs, reaching an increasingly wide and varied audience. Adjacent in a large open space is Hangar 100, which has also enabled the museum to organise temporary and themed exhibitions, and hosts immersive photographic displays, and multisensory installations.

The museum’s versatility was on display in March 2021 when it became a COVID-19 vaccine hub. Reorganising the spaces in record time, Mumac became one of the first company premises made available for this purpose, providing the community with more than 33,000 vaccine doses. “The opening of the hub was a momentous occasion and once again made me proud to be part of this company,” Barbara says.

Barbara says her perception of coffee machines has change forever thanks to her role at Mumac, which she started nine years ago. The seemingly invisible parts of our everyday lives suddenly become visible at Mumac where they are the stars of the show.

“[Mumac is a] world full of history, beauty and design with remarkable exhibits around every corner. When I stood before the Pitagora designed by the Castiglioni brothers – which to this today remains the only machine to have won the Compasso d’Oro – I wasn’t familiar with its history yet, but I already felt that I shared it. I remembered seeing that machine as a child in a coffee bar in the Marche region where I spent my holidays,” Barbara says.

“I think everyone at Mumac can identify a machine that has left an imprint on them, one that makes them say ‘I remember this one’, perhaps without ever having paid conscious attention to it, a model that in some way, at some time and in some place defined a moment in our lives.”

Over the years, Barbara has observed the emotions that visitors experience when visiting Mumac. Each time they walk through the museum for the first time, they always find the experience “unexpected” and completely encapsulated by the wonder and surprise of discovery.

To mark 110 years of Gruppo Cimbali history and 10 years of Mumac, Barbera has co-authored a booked titled Senso Espresso: Coffee. Style. Emotions. Just as the museum does not exclusively celebrate the history of the company, the book does not solely promote the contents of the museum. Rather, it serves as an act of restitution and gratitude to all the key industry icons who have enabled the industry to flourish over the past 100 years.

The volume of work took more than nine months of complete, including the process of gathering ideas, in-depth research, and establishing connections with organisations and archives.

The coffee table book is split into six chapters that are each dedicated to a sense: aroma, sound, sight, touch, taste, and synaesthesia. Every sense corresponds to a historical figure, in chronological order, and images and relationships between coffee and its various tangential worlds are dedicated to each sense.

It includes a published photograph of Gruppo Cimbali Founder Giuseppe Cimbali, dating back to 1905, on which a caption written in calligraphy explains that Giuseppe was working on the creation of La Pavoni machines for a 1906 exhibition. It was this young worker who was tasked with producing the machines that would usher in a new era of Italian manufacturing.

Barbara says immense beauty and care has been invested in the book’s narrative, representing genius and inventiveness, and slightly resembling the people who contributed to it. Business archives and museums also provided a wealth of images and content that enhanced the book in a way that would otherwise have been impossible.

“Each of us has a story to tell. Companies have stories to compile and tell. Culture is history. Business is continuous storytelling. History is culture. Business is culture,” she says.

Gruppo Cimbali will celebrate its 110th anniversary and Mumac’s decade of existence on the same day it opened 10 years ago, 12 October 2022. Until then, its door remains open to explore coffee’s incredible coffee legacy.

“Mumac has undoubtedly made a difference in terms of the focus on this industry. While there are other museums in Italy and around the world devoted to coffee or coffee machines, Mumac remains the first to have concentrated on the entire history of professional espresso machines, and is currently the most extensive museum in terms of its number of exhibits, wealth of documentation and books available for consultation,” Barbara says.

“To learn more about its history, I invite you to visit Mumac in person or virtually through the website.”

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This article appears in the April 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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