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Vaiont exhibition


The Italian Association of Applied and Environmental Geology (AIGA-Associazione Italiana di Geologia Applicata e Ambientale) has organized an exhibition on the Vaiont landslide, on the occasion of the 6th World Landslide Forum and sixty years after the disaster.

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The knowledge of the landslide through the photos of Edoardo Semenza
edited by Monica Ghirotti, Francesco M. Guadagno, Giovanni Masè, Michele Semenza, Paolo Semenza, Pietro Semenza and John J. Clague

The "Vaiont disaster" of 9 October 1963, a paradigm of the catastrophe of human origin, is illustrated through the exceptional photos taken by Prof. Edoardo Semenza before and immediately after the event.
He was one of Italy’s leading landslide researchers. He put his distinctive mark on the understanding of the Alpine range structure, making original contributions to the geology, tectonics and geomorphology of the Dolomites.
Semenza was the geologist who discovered that an ancient landslide mass was present on the southern side of the Vaiont valley upstream from the reservoir under construction, years before the beginning of its initial mobilization.
In the images shown in the thirteen roll-ups, the intuitions, growing awareness, and sense of urgency of the man who first recognized the existence of the ancient landslide become evident. They reveal his "mente et malleo" approach, which allowed him to develop a model of the slope and what today we call risk scenarios.
His discovery was immediately taken into consideration by the designer and project managers of the dam, albeit only as a hypothesis to be verified with follow-up research and investigations. Unfortunately, his work, which lasted until 1961, did not prevent the disaster from taking place.
Semenza’s photographs therefore allow us to access both his intimate and personal, and professional dimensions.
The landslide is still today the subject of debate and scientific reflection, due to the extraordinary amount of data available, as well as to the corpus of memories, stories, and testimonies that affected communities preserve and continue to build. A part of these materials, taken from the volume and CD "The photos of the Vajont landslide" and from Edoardo Semenza’s book on the landslide, is shown in the roll-up banners, and constitutes a contribution to the discussion. Texts, images and captions are selected and adapted from these two publications.
Through this exhibition and a renewed attention to Semenza’s work we hope to raise awareness on the fundamental role that the knowledge of geology holds for the respect and protection of the environment.
This exhibition also wants to be an invitation to the spectators of the exhibition to build upon the research of Edoardo Semenza and other scholars who have dedicated so much of their efforts to the study of the Vaiont landslide.
Monica Ghirotti and Francesco M. Guadagno

Edoardo Semenza (1927-2002) is the geologist who recognized the existence of an ancient landslide on the southern side of the Vaiont Valley, just upstream from the dam site still under construction.
The main geological and geomorphological evidences which led him to discover the ancient landslide and to define its shape and limits and its possible consequent remobilisation, are illustrated through some of the photographs taken between 1959 and 1963.
They help to understand both the geological complexity of the area and the peculiar structures of the valley, which contributed to hiding to previous and contemporary scholars the true nature of what they were analyzing and to hindering the recognition of related risks.
The identification of the ancient landslide was the result of a detailed geological survey and a great geological instinct. The Semenza’s work, carried out for many years afterwards, with passion and sacrifice, was recognized internationally: we owe him the understanding of the geological foundations of this complex phenomenon, which have proven for any further investigation and verification.
Semenza spent more than 40 years of his academic career at Ferrara University as full professor in Engineering Geology: his geological insight, kindness and culture (he also wrote many poems, both in Italian and Latin) remain in the memory of colleagues, students and the whole Italian scientific community.
Semenza repeatedly stressed the need to collect field data in order to understand slope failure conditions as a basis of correct landslide modelling. He strongly believed both in the role of geology and geomorphology as fundamental support to any engineering project and in the importance of a good communication between the various specialists working on large projects. In these aspects, just like in his research work, he was a pioneer and a leader for the whole geological community.




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