Scheda insegnamento

Anno Accademico 2019/2020

Conoscenze e abilità da conseguire

Al termine del corso, lo studente comprende l'importante ruolo culturale e sociale di musei e altre forme espositive nell'istituzione e nella codifica delle nozioni di invenzione, scoperta, tradizione scientifica, e nella formazione dell'identità culturale. Il corso esamina i diverdsi contesti culturali, economici e sociali nei quali musei e divere forme di espositive sono radicati, nonchè i fattori che ne hanno influenzato lo sviluppo nel periodo considerato e l'eredità del quadro storico di riferimento.


In, out, and around the museum: spaces, objects, and the material culture of science

Focusing in particular (but not exclusively) on the early modern period, we will be studying

the historical roots of museums;

the ways in which different spaces and objects have shaped up scientific knowledge;

the ways in which the material culture of science has forged the public image of science.



The course will discuss 10 main themes. Here is a preliminary bibliography (minor changes are possible). All the articles and some of the book chapters can be found on the e-learning platform.

1. Theaters of the body

Giovanna Ferrari, “Public Anatomy Lessons and the Carnival: The Anatomy Theatre of Bologna,” Past and Present, 117, 1987, pp. 50-106.

Cynthia Klestinec, “Civility, Comportment, and the Anatomy Theater: Girolamo Fabrici and His Medical Students in Renaissance Padua”, Renaissance Quarterly, 60, 2007, pp. 434-463.

Rina Knoeff, “Touching Anatomy: On the Handling of Anatomical Preparations in the Anatomical Cabinets of Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731)”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 1 (2015), pp. 32-44.

2. Theaters of nature and the origins of the museum

Giuseppe Olmi, “Private Collections and Public Patrimony: The Case of Bologna in the Modern Age”, in Barbara Marx, Karl-Siegbert Rehberg,ed., Sammeln als Institution (Munchen: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2006), pp. 37-44.

Paula Findlen, Possessing Nature Museums, collecting and scientific culture in early modern Italy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), Chapter 3, “Sites of knowledge”, pp. 97-150, and Chapter 7, “Inventing the collector”, pp. 293-345-

3. Households as spaces of knowledge

Alix Cooper, “Homes and Households”, in Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, eds.,The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 224-237.

Deborah Harkness, “Managing an Experimental Household: The Dees of Mortlake and the Practice of Natural Philosophy”, Isis, 88, 1997: 247-262.

Elaine Leong, “Making Medicines in the Early Modern Household”, Bulletin of the History of Medicine 82, 1 (10 marzo 2008): 145–168.

4. Artisans and their Workshops

Edgar Zilsel, "The Sociological Roots of Science [1942]", in Id., The Social Origins of Modern Science, edited by Diederick Raven, Wolfgang Krohn, Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht: Springer, 2003), pp. 7-21.

Pamela O. Long, “Trading Zones in Early Modern Europe,” Isis 106, 4 (2015): 840–847.

Fanny Kieffer, "The Laboratories of Art and Alchemy at the Uffizi Gallery in Renaissance Florence: Some Material Aspects", in Sven Dupré, ed., Laboratories of Art: Alchemy and Art Technology from Antiquity to the 18th Century (Springer, 2014), pp. 105-128.

5. Food and the Materiality of Knowledge

Allen J. Grieco, “The social politics of pre-Linnaean botanical classification,” I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance 4 (1991), pp. 131-149.

David Gentilcore, Food and Health in Early Modern Europe: Diet, Medicine, and Society 1450-1800 (Bloomsbury, 2016), chapter 7: "New World Food: The Columbian Exchange and Its European Impact" (pp. 133-155).

Sarah Peterson, Acquired Taste: The French Origins of Modern Cooking (Cornell University Press, 1994), chapter 10: "Inventing the Modern World" (pp. 163-182).

 6. Contagion and Institutions: The Materiality of Plague 

Carlo M. Cipolla, Miasmas and Disease: Public Health and the Environment in the Pre-Industrial Age (Yale University Press, 1992), pp. 1-74 (this is a small booklet).

Samuel Cohn Jr, Cultures of Plague: Medical Thinking at the end of the Renaissance (Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 77-94.

Vivian Nutton, "The Seeds of Disease: An Explanation of Contagion and Infection from the Greeks to the Renaissance", Medical History, 27, 1 (1983): 1-34.

 7. Wax and Women

Lucia Dacome, “Women, Wax, and Anatomies in the ‘Century of Things’,” Renaissance Studies, 21: 4 (2007): 522-550.

Rebecca Messbarger, “Waxing Poetic: Anna Morandi Manzolini’s Anatomical Sculptures”, Configurations, 9 (2001): 65-97.

Marta Cavazza, “Between Modesty and Spectacle: Women and Science in Eighteenth-Century Italy”, in Paula Findlen, ed. Italy’s Eighteenth Century: Gender and Culture in the Age of the Grand Tour. Stanford, 2009, pp. 275-302.

8. Scientific Instruments and Laboratories

Pamela H. Smith, “Laboratories”, in Lorraine Daston and Katharine Park, eds., The Cambridge History of Science, vol. 3: Early Modern Science. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, pp. 290-305.

Larry Stewart, “The Laboratory, the Workshop, and the Theater of Experiment”, in Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, ed., Science and Spectacle in the European Enlightenment. London New York: Routledge, 2016, pp. 11-24.

Liba Taub, “On Scientific Instruments”, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 40 (2009): 337-343.

Deborah Jane Warner, “What is a Scientific Instrument, When did it Became One, and Why?”, The British Journal of the History of Science, 23 (1990): 83-93.

9. The birth of science museums

Stella Butler, Science and Technology Museums (Leicester: Leicester UP, 1992), Chapter 1: “Science and technology on display”, pp. 1-14.

Marco Beretta, “Andrea Corsini and the Creation of the Museum of the History of Science in Florence (1930–1961)”, in: Scientific Instruments on Display, Leiden, Brill, 2014, pp. 1–36. 

Alan J. Friedman, “The extraordinary growth of the science-technology museum”, Curator, 50 (2007), pp. 63-75.

Lara Bergers and Didi van Trijp, "Science Museums: A Panoramic View", Isis, 108, 2 (2017), pp. 366-370.

10. The museum as a space of representation and conflict

James Delbourgo, “Slavery in the Cabinet of Curiosities: Hans Sloane’s Atlantic World”, British Museum, pp. 1-29 (online) https://www.britishmuseum.org/research/news/hans_sloanes_atlantic_world.aspx#targetText=Slavery%20in%20the%20Cabinet%20of,the%20British%20Museum%20in%201753.

Samuel J.M.M. Alberti, “Objects and the Museum”, Isis, 96, 2006, pp. 559-571.

Sophie Forgan, “Building the Museum: Knowledge, Conflict, and the Power of Place”, Isis, 96, 2005, pp. 572-585.

Metodi didattici

Lectures and visits to local museums.

Lectures (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 3-5pm, Aula E, Via Zamboni 34) will begin on April 6, 2020. 

On April 21 (regular class time, 3-5pm) we will visit the Museum of Industrial Heritage (Via della Beverara 123).

On April 28 (same time) we will visit the Museum of Art and Science at Palazzo Poggi (Via Zamboni 35). 

Depending on the unfolding of the current events, museum visits might not be possible; in that case, we will have the curators speak to us online. 

Modalità di verifica dell'apprendimento

Final assessment and evaluation will be divided in two parts

Part 1. Oral exam focusing on 4 out of the 10 themes of the course.

Part 2. Participation to discussions in class will be considered as an important method of assessment. In the last class of the course all the students will give a brief presentation of one object/site/museum/exhibition they visited, which will become a piece of writing of no more than 2,000 words. The topic of this brief essay must be chosen with the teacher. If students cannot attend classes they must get in touch with the teacher.

Top marks (28-30) will be given to students who demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the material discussed in class and contained in the texts, critical and analytical skills, and the ability to express ideas and concepts clearly and cogently. Those students who will demonstrate a good knowledge of the material but tend to repeat it mechanically rather than demonstrate full understanding and the ability to build connections and present an argument will be rewarded with average to high marks (23-27). Students who demonstrate superficial knowledge, gaps in preparation, poor critical and analytical skills and difficulties of expression will receive average to low marks (18-22). Severe lacunae in one or more areas listed above could lead to the student repeating the exam.

Orario di ricevimento

Consulta il sito web di Paolo Savoia