Since childhood, I have always been attracted to tin boxes: the appeal of colors and images of these keepsakes has been a passion throughout my life. I later met my husband, Riccardo Guatelli, heir to a historic tin factory in Imperia, Italy, and since then, my interest in historical artefacts has grown. In 2006, Riccardo and I decided to renovate a 17th Century oil mill, located in the hinterland of Imperia, into a museum dedicated to antique tin olive oil cans as olive oil is a major a historical icon of Italian culture.
Several friends wanted to share the in the preservation of family and community historical artefacts and joined the project. Heirs of the Renzetti family donated a large number of pieces to our museum, which were then studied and catalogued by Dr. Daniela Lauria and Antonella Heel. Our current collection of oilcans consists of approximately 6000 items. Not only are these items historical relics of the community, but they also prestigiously serve as the first museum collection of lithographed tin cans, a testimony to the Italian olive oil industry and export from the Liguria area.
The growing production of olive oil was intended for both Italian families as well as increasing tourist populations, who upon leaving the country, wanted to bring home a cultural souvenir of Italy’s beloved cuisine. As a fundamental staple in Italian cooking, olive oil became a cultural signpost; therefore, tin oilcans were more than functional and became astatically decorated with beautiful Italian motifs.
Our collection has become so renown that Francis Ford Coppola, an Oscar-winning director and great lover of history, found our collection and asked for a few pieces for his estate in the Napa Valley, where they could be enjoyed by the friends and family he entertains. With great pride, I would, therefore, say that our collection indicates a unique and important step in the expansion of Italian culture to be enjoyed by the rest of the world.