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Institute and Museum of the History of Science

  • nstitute and Museum of the History of Science - Locali d'Autore

    © Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza

The Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza [IMSS] was founded in 1927 at the initiative of the University of Florence under the name of Istituto di Storia delle Scienze. According to its Statute, its function was that of collecting, cataloguing and restoring ancient instruments and devices of historical and scientific interest. The University of Florence loaned the new institution its own collections of Medici-Lorraine scientific instruments, as well as precious library sources. The IMSS was founded within a particular historical and cultural context in which, starting from the 1920s, several initiatives were launched in Florence for the purpose of conserving and capitalizing on Italy's historical/scientific heritage. In 1923 the Gruppo per la Tutela del Patrimonio Scientifico was established in Florence and, subsequent to the foundation of the IMSS, the First National Exposition of the History of Science was organized in 1929.

The first exhibition halls of the IMSS, limited to a few rooms on the first floor of Palazzo Castellani, at the time shared with other institutions, were solemnly inaugurated in 1930. The first President of the Institute and Museum was Senator Piero Ginori Conti. The original arrangement of the Museum was planned by Andrea Corsini (1875-1961), who was its director until his death. Maria Luisa Righini Bonelli (1917-1981), his successor, imparted a further impetus to the process which, over the course of two decades, was to transform the IMSS into a modern museum and a research center frequented by Italian and foreign scholars. After the disastrous flood of 1966, the exhibition area was extended to the second floor of the palace, where the instruments which had been salvaged and restored, thanks to the collaboration of Italian and foreign specialists, were displayed.

Starting in the 1980s, the IMSS undertook a program of development and transformation which has produced not only an entirely new concept of museum display based on the most recent studies, but also a significant increment in its library and a growing investment in the application of the new information and communication technologies to the cultural heritage. Major effort has been dedicated to profitably utilizing and divulging the sources for studies on the history of science, especially as concerns the figure of Galileo Galilei and the Galilean school. In the last twenty years IMSS has also published a biannual review on the History of Science (Nuncius. Annali di Storia della Scienza) as well as numerous specialized publications, has organized a great number of seminars and conferences, promoted innovative research, held specialized courses for young researchers and set up an outstanding series of exhibitions, many of which have been highly successful internationally as itinerant shows.

In the course of its history, the IMSS has constantly been a paragon, on both the national and the international level, for history of science research and for the issues involved in giving importance to the study of scientific instrumentation of historical interest. In particular, it has been a leader in the intense debate that has led to the full recognition of scientific instruments as a part of our cultural heritage, and has compiled the STS standard cataloguing system adopted by the Central Institute of Cataloguing and Documentation of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs as standard for cataloguing historical/scientific property.

Among the many noteworthy recognitions conferred on the IMSS are the Prime Minister's Cultural Award of 1992, and a visit by the President of the Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi on April 9, 2002, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Library premises.

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