Written messages for cultural mediation produced for the visitors in a museum are displayed in very different fashions. Differences concern both their shape (labels, room panels, summarizing panels) and the place where they are located, either close to the object in the museum site (peri-textual messages) or separated from it (epi-textual messages). This article aims at showing that what all these messages have in common is in their narrative form: every message produced by the museum presents a "story" to the visitor which can be about several different aspects, from the physical description of the object to its origin, from the restorations it underwent to the iconographic analysis. If this hypothesis is acceptable, it is then possible to apply to the texts for cultural mediation those categories that, since the first half of last century, have been pointed out by the scholars in narratology. In this article, the functions which, according to Roland Barthes’ model, allow the decomposition of a narrative text will be analyzed; as an example, such model will be applied to a text of cultural mediation in the epigraphic section of the Museo Nazionale Romano at the Terme di Diocleziano, thus discussing the results obtained through this analysis. Finally, possible future applications will be proposed, relating to the methodology which can help better level the texts of cultural mediation in the museum to the needs of the visitors.
Keywords: Communication, museum, narratology, textual analysis, reading comprehension.