The Italian Genius on Display

The First National Exhibition of History of Science (Florence, 1929) and the Preservation of Scientific Heritage in Fascist Italy


Held in Florence in 1929, the First National Exhibition of History of Science was a pivotal event in the shaping of Italian cultural panorama. With more than 8000 items on display coming from public and private lenders, it showed the general public how rich the Italian scientific heritage was and how it could be regarded as part of a general nation-claiming narrative, thus laying the foundation for today’s protection policy and scholarly research. Moreover, it is also a telling case-study that offers precious insights into the complex relationships between cultural enterprises and political power during the fascist era, helping us understand how today’s geography of Italian cultural institutions have been shaped and reshaped through time.

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Francesco Barreca, Ph.D. (University of Pisa, 2012) is research fellow at the Università Statale di Milano. He has published monographs and articles on the history of early modern science and on the history of scientific institutions. His latest monograph is La scienza che fu. Idee e strumenti di teorie abbandonate (Editrice Bibliografica, 2017).
Preface XI
List of IllustrationsX
List of ChartsII

part 1: The Exhibition in Context

1 To Protect and to Promote
 1 The Italian Scientific Heritage at the Turn of the Century
 2 Universities, Museums, and the History of Science
 3 Bringing History of Science to the People: Exhibitions and Commemorations

2 From Local to National
 1 The Rise of Fascism
 2 The National Scientific Heritage Protection Group
 3 The Galilean Tradition and the Florentine Primacy
 4 The Institute of the History of Science in Florence
 5 Aldo Mieli and the National Institute of History of Science in Rome

3 Setting up the Exhibition
 1 From a Tuscan Exposition to the National Exhibition
 2 Funding and Financing
 3 Location
 4 Exhibition Criteria and Local Committees

4 The Exhibition in Context
 1 History of Science and Propaganda: The Italian Genius and the National Scientific Primacy
 2 History of Science and Ideology: The Italian Scientific Contributions throughout History
 3 History of Science and the Public: Visitors at the Exhibition
 4 History of Science and Entertainment: Music, Cinema, and Spectacles at the Exhibition

5 The National Museum of History of Science
 1 From the Exhibition to the National Museum
 2 Administration and Financing
 3 Location and Collections
 4 Visitors

6 Indexing the Italian Scientific Heritage
 1 A Definitive Inventory
 2 The Original Plan
 3 The Revised Plan
 4 Editorial Troubles
 5 The End of the Project and the Catalogue of 1952

part 2: Plates

The Exhibition in Detail

7 The Exhibition in Detail
 1 Ground Floor I
 2 Ground Floor II
 3 Ground Floor III
 4 Ground Floor IV
 5 Basement
 6 Pavilions

 Name Index
Institutes, academic libraries, specialists, students. History of Science, Cultural History, Social History Political History, Italian History, Fascism
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