By Adina Lopatin

In late February 1997, a group of Roman artists and intellectuals met to prepare for the millennium. Unlike its cultish counterparts, this group did not expect any universal shifts to come with the year 2000. The members believed that life in the 21st-century would probably look much like it did in the 20th, and the 19th and before. Their task, as they defined it, was not to prepare humankind for redemption but to take the change of centuries as an opportunity to learn from history.

Specifically, the group envisioned a provocative learning institution that might draw meaning out of the past and stimulate critical self-reflection in the present. Following philosopher Hannah Arendt, they believed in the banality of evil and hoped to bring to Rome an awareness that violence is part of normal human experience. By the end of its February meeting, the group proposed an ambitious municipal project: a major new museum of intolerance and genocide. MORE.