Museo Galileo: 1930-2010 : The National History of Science Exhibition held in 1929

The National History of Science Exhibition held in 1929

On May 8, 1929, at the initiative of Antonio Garbasso, Piero Ginori Conti and Corsini, the National History of Science Exhibition was inaugurated in Florence, at Palazzo delle Esposizioni, built  in 1922 at the Parterre after a design of Enrico Dante Fantappiè and Vittorio Tognetti (1915). At this exceptionally important event, 10,000 exhibits were displayed – instruments, machines, books, manuscripts, sculptures, paintings and other documentation on the history of science and technology in Italy. In spite of the regime’s nationalistic claims to Italian scientific supremacy, the Florence exhibition was the first entirely devoted to the history of science.

The exhibition, divided by geographic areas, revealed for the first time the scope and wealth of the Italian heritage of historic scientific materials. Its success with the public, demonstrated by over 100,000 visitors in the first few months, underlined the cultural importance of science. The Florentine section, one of the exhibition’s richest, displayed not only the Institution’s instruments but also mathematical instruments from the Medicean collection, Galilean memorabilia, and apparatus used by the Accademia del Cimento, coming from the historic collection of Galileo’s Tribune. An outstanding study by Giuseppe Boffito, Gli strumenti della scienza e la scienza degli strumenti [The instruments of science and the science of instruments], commissioned by Ginori Conti, to whom the volume was dedicated, provided detailed information on the collections.

Ambitious plans for a catalogue, entrusted to Umberto Repetti, Corsini’s assistant, included not only a description of the objects shown in the exhibition, but also a first recognition of the national scientific heritage and a biographical dictionary of Italian scientists. This project was never completed, however, and Repetti published only a brief guide to the exhibition.

With the success of the exhibition and the sound reputation acquired in the Institute’s first years of activity, Corsini managed to obtain on loan or in donation many of the Florentine objects displayed, as well as instruments, models and machines coming from other Italian cities. The sudden expansion of the Institute’s collections now made it urgently necessary to reorganize the material and find a new seat to house it.