The audiovisual installation “When (even here) the bombs fell. 1944-1945 Allied raids on Modena” is solely composed of primary sources, produced at the time of the historical events depicted in the installation, selected through careful historiographical review. The search for sources took place in physical and digital archives: the Central State Archive, the Historical Archive of the Municipality of Modena, the State Archive of Modena, the Archive of the Historical Institute of Modena, the Historical Archive of the Istituto Luce, and the National Archives.

The intent of the installation is to recount Italy’s role within a war system that, for the first time in Europe, saw the use of bombings on civilian targets as a determining element of the conflict. From the mid-1930s to 1945, Italy transitioned from being a bombing nation, in Africa, France, and England, to being a victim of bombings by the Allies.

The sources used here are mainly two. Until 1943, the voice of the Istituto Luce, the main propaganda organ of the Fascist Party, with newsreels and various war documentaries, propagandistically glorifies the exploits of Italian aviators, while portraying with terror and outrage the bombings suffered by Italy. The summer of 1943 marks a turning point in the war and also in the narrative presented. The Combat Films produced by the United States show the massive Allied bombings to liberate Italy from Nazifascism.

Although the narrative consists solely of primary sources, it is important not to fall into the mistake of thinking that one is observing something devoid of mediation. Audiovisual sources, like any other historical source, must always be critiqued within a comparative framework. First and foremost, it is important to bear in mind that the producing entities, both the Istituto Luce and the U.S. Office of War Information, respond to specific propagandistic intentions that assume a predominant value in wartime. It should also be considered that the camera’s eye is never impartial; rather, it constructs a viewpoint that determines the narrative of events.

The final product was created by professionals who are familiar with the historical method of source research and critique, complemented by the language of art, which, thanks to digital technology, allowed us to work on materials in an innovative way. Each type of source represents a narrative complexity; what is seen in the installation is the result of extensive analysis, selection, and editing of sources, which – it must be said – are not always shown in their original form. The work of selection and editing has, to some extent, altered the original sources to achieve a more engaging result for the audience, creating a product in which it is not the voice of the historian guiding the narrative, but the primary sources themselves, which, by being displayed, allow the observer to delve into history.

List of Sources from the Historical Archive of the Istituto Luce.