90095 - Scientific and Technical Museology

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Understanding of the concept and practice of museums, with a view to recognise and appreciate collections of historical and scientific interest, from Wunderkammer to nineteenth-century museums, from Science museums to Science centres. The course will examine the characteristics, the evolution and the cultural role played by technical-scientific museums and by other means of display and visualisation in relation to the developments of science and technology, the creation of scientific traditions, their connection with the economic and social aspect, and the inheritance of such intellectual background

Course contents

Course title: The scientific museum between history and project. Through some case studies, the course will explore the characteristics, evolution and cultural role played by technical-scientific museums and other forms of exposure and visualization from the Renaissance to the present day.

Main topics:

1. The Wunderkammer a microcosm of naturalia and artificialia The rooms of wonders between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Theory and practices in the creation of private collections by members of the aristocracy and the rich bourgeoisie.

2. From the "curiosity cabinets" to the eighteenth-century collections. The emergence of new criteria for classifying nature is reflected in "scientific" criteria in the organization of the collections and in their visualization. From private to public. Many collections become research tools within scientific academies. The collections are enriched with tools and machines.

3. In the nineteenth century the fragmentation and multiplication of scientific museums corresponds to the progressive specialization of the various scientific fields. At the same time, the industrial revolution determines a radical change in the mission of the museum itself that is starting to address a wider audience.

4. The nineteenth century also saw the extraordinary development of national and international exhibitions as a stage from which to offer an audience of unprecedented dimensions the progress of science, technology and the arts. Cultural, socio-economic and political aspects of these events.

5. The first museums dedicated specifically to illustrating the history of science and technology have emerged from the collections of instruments and equipment used for teaching, and from the collections of machinery exhibited during national and international exhibitions.

6. Since the mid-1950s, attention has shifted to the "Exploratorium" phenomenon, to "science centers", characterized by an interactive approach, the use of new communication methods, and the tendency to stimulate the public participation. The museum is increasingly becoming a complex medium: Learning at the Museum, Knowing the visitors, The human factor, Museums and society, the building, etc. they become relevant issues, subject to specific investigations


The program  for attending students

M. Merzagora, P. Rodari, La scienza in mostra. Musei, science centre e comunicazione, Bruno Mondadori, Paravia, 2007

M. Beretta, Storia materiale della scienza, Carocci, Roma, 2017, capitoli, 2, 4, 7, 9, 11

P. Findlen, Possedere la natura, in Stanze delle meraviglie. I musei della natura tra storia e progetto, a cura di L. Basso Peressut, Clueb, Bologna, 1997, pp. 25-47 

P. Brenni, Le meraviglie del progresso. Le esposizioni universali e i musei tecnico scientifici, in Storia delle scienze. Conoscenze scientifiche e trasferimento tecnologico, Torino, Einaudi, 1995, pp. 143-185.

Program for non-attending students: The following text must be added to the above texts. However, non-attending students are invited to contact the teacher:F. Camerota, M. Miniati, I Medici e le Scienze. Strumenti e macchine nelle collezioni granducali, Giunti, Firenze, 2008, pp.141-153; 205-210; 221-223; 229-241; 249- 259; 285-289, 331-335; 359-365.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons.

Active participation is encouraged, including asking questions and discussing issues to be expanded on. Lectures will alternate with seminars; students will have the opportunity to attend conferences given by experts, to watch videos and explore websites, and to visit museums and/or libraries. At the end of each lesson, 15 minutes will be dedicated to questions, requests for clarification, etc.

Assessment methods

Oral exam of the duration of 30-40 minutes approximately.

The oral examination aims to evaluate the critical and methodological abilites developed by the student:

- basic knowledge of the program: the assessment is carried out on the basis of the texts indicated in the bibliography - the ability to understand the problems faced during the lessons - knowledge of the discipline in its historical development - the ability to frame the objects / problems studied in their context, and to discuss them critically - the quality of oral expression and the ability to construct a logical-argumentative type of speech

The exam will be structured in 2 parts: 1) Some brief notional questions, to check the careful reading and the knowledge of the exam texts; 2) Two / three open questions of more general-interpretative cutting.

The assignment will be marked on the basis of the student’s ability to gather and select the appropriate information to be able to effectively illustrate and link topics and issues

Specifically :

The achievement of an organic and articulate view, the detailed knowledge of the sources, the ability to critically analyze the arguments put forward and the appropriate use of language will result in excellent marks (28-30L). A correct knowledge of the sources, but no critical analysis, and an appropriate use of the language, but at times imprecise, will result in a good mark (25-27). Mnemonic learning of the subject, ability to synthesize but inability to critically elaborate on the topic, appropriate use of language but no use of specific language will result in a fair mark (22-24). Minimal knowledge of the course and/or inappropriate use of language will result in low marks (18-21). Severe lack of knowledge, severely inappropriate use of language and lack of critical thinking and organization skills will result in a fail.

The use of textbooks, notes or any electronic device is not allowed during the examination.

Teaching tools

PowerPoint (they  will distributed in Virtuale); DVD and scientific documentaries, website.

Office hours

See the website of Sandra Linguerri