Not just Barilla: the Company's Historical Archive showcases 141 years of Italian history

Why is Barilla's pasta packet blue? What does the oval shape of the company logo represent? And what does Federico Fellini have to do with the pasta that represents Italy across the world?
Thanks to Barilla, facts that may have tickled the curiosity of few marketing and communication enthusiasts become important questions that allow anyone to learn more about the customs of Italian society and its eating habits. In fact, the way in which the company has presented itself and its products since 1877 reflects the changes that Italian society experienced across over a century.
Aware of the significance and cultural value of its material, Barilla has created the new Historical Archive Website, a museum/website that tells the story of the Parma-based company and of the entire country.

A “website of great historical interest” that “shows how Italian customs have evolved”, said the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities.


Barilla Historical Archive: The Project

Strongly encouraged by Pietro Barilla, the archive collection started well before the Internet era with the objective of conserving and valorizing the historical documents produced by the company since its foundation, in 1877, just a few years after the Italian unification. A years-long journey across the cultural and economic changes of the country, said Luca Barilla, Vice-President of the Group, which in this Internet era is made available to everyone in the form of a rich and comprehensive digital archive*.
“We are all made of our history, which is therefore our most valuable heritage. The Historical Archive, wanted by my father, shows our focus on all aspects of quality and tells the story of the evolution of the tastes and customs of Italy's society.” 
What is inside the Barilla Historical Archive
The answer is simple: no less than 35,000 digitalized documents that offer an insight into Italy's history, photographs and videos but also curious facts and in-depth information on how the company evolved and interacted with Italy's cultural industry production throughout the years.
The Archive's multiple sections include the Photo Gallery, with thousands of images of the company from 1933 to date, the Library, with material covering local history, wheat cultivation, mills and milling, and the Postcard and Packaging collections.
The graphic and communication advertising section includes 150 posters from the 1920s to date, promotional gadgets and approximately 2,700 television and cinema ads directed by some of the most renowned film makers, including Federico Fellini, Wim Wenders, David Lynch, Giuseppe Tornatore and Gabriele Salvatores, and staring personalities such as Alberto Tomba, Alex Zanardi, Dario Fo, Mina, Massimo Ranieri and Pierfrancesco Favino.


A journey across history, customs and society

Browsing the website visitors find out that the company's first trademark, created by sculptor Emilio Trombara in 1910, featured a boy breaking an egg on a large wooden kneading trough. And that the promotional postcards and calendars of the 1930s were dominated by the smiley, chubby faces of children, thanks to Barilla's nutritious glutinated baby pasta, recommended to mums “to make them grow, healthy, happy and strong”.

The archive also reveals that after Pietro Barilla's trip to America, in the 1950s, the company defied tradition by launching a cardboard packaging for pasta, which until then had always been sold loose.
The choice of the Barilla Blue for the packaging was inspired by the color of the paper used in shops to wrap loose pasta, which was immediately recognizable and familiar to house wives. Also thanks to Barilla, Italy enters the mass consumption era and discovers the concept of "brand".

As for the iconic red oval, which today is still a fundamental part of Barilla's logo, it was created in 1952 by Pietro Carboni, a graphic designer and architect from Parma, who modernized and gave an abstract shape to the egg in the original trademark and put it at the center of Barilla's message of tradition and genuineness, anticipating the need for good food.
In the archive, visitors can also admire the photos of the very first terracotta biscuit molds of the Mulino Bianco brand, which was established in 1975 and became the symbol of old times gone by, peaceful life, good food and happy families. The positive and reassuring message that Barilla offered Italians during the dark years following 1968, characterized by economic uncertainty and terrorism.

The archive also shows that the 1980s were the years in which the importance of eating together and conviviality inspired Barilla's ads – some of which have become part of Italy's collective memory – created by some of the most renowned film directors in the world. One of the gems of the archive is the backstage with Fellini on the set of “Rigatoni”, which takes place in a luxury restaurant, where a sophisticated couple declines a long list of French-sounding dishes and orders a simple pasta.
Finally, thanks to the Archive, visitors can appreciate how Barilla still communicates with the same spirit: widening and reflecting on the messages and values of our time. This is how internationalization, health and sustainability become initiatives with an increasingly social and universal value, which Barilla summarizes in its mission "Good for You, Good for the Planet."

*The original materials can be viewed in Barilla's Historical Archive at the company's headquarters in Via Mantova 166 in Parma (booking required).