The Catalogue of the Museum
The Museo della Specola is housed in some of the rooms of the XVIIIth-century tower - built onto Palazzo Poggi, present seat of the University of Bologna - which in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries were mainly given over to astronomical observation. The museum is today subdivided in three rooms: the Meridian Room, the Globe Room, and the Turret Room, situated on the first, third and fourth floor of the tower respectively.
The same tower also houses the Department of Astronomy of the University and the Astronomical Observatory.
The materials exhibited in the museum (and those that could not be exhibited for lack of space, owing to cohabitation with the above-mentioned bodies, and restoration requirements) come mostly from the collection of astronomical instruments of the Marsili Observatory, transferred to the Specola of the Istituto delle Scienze at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. The astronomer at the time was also given charge of the Military Room of the Institute and a range of topographical and geographical duties; shortly after, the material from the Nautical Room was also moved in the Specola, and then taken to other rooms of the Rectorate. Still in the first half of the XVIIIth century, the collection donated to the Bolognese Senate in the previous century by the marquis Ferdinando Cospi - encyclopedic collection comprising "singolari manifatture dell’Arte" and "opere curiose della natura" and including animal and vegetative reports, arms, mathematical and astronomical instruments, works of art and other hand-made articles - was transferred to the Istituto delle Scienze on the orders of cardinal Prospero Lambertini and split up among the various rooms, including the astronomical ones.
These facts, along with other individual donations, meant the museum had objects that came from different sources than those already mentioned of the Marsili Specola. Subsequent events, moreover, helped scatter part of the material, which had formerly been lodged in the Specola, in other museums and institutes.
The exhibition I materiali dell’Istituto delle Scienze, organized by the University of Bologna in 1979, provided the occasion for initiating the restoration of a large part of the astronomical instruments and the Meridian Room; subsequently, in 1985 and 1989, with recovery and restoration of the material (scattered about the cellars and attics of the tower) having gone ahead, the other two rooms were opened to the public.
The Museo della Specola thus reflects the development and evolution of astronomical instruments over more than a century, from the beginning of the XVIIIth to well into the XIXth century.
The history of these instruments can be followed in some detail through the many existing inventories and the annotations recorded in the observation registers of the Specola, as well as in the documents preserved in the Archives of the Department of Astronomy.
The list of these documentary sources - which will be mentioned several times in the catalogue files - are reported in what follows according to the criteria laid down by Baiada and Braccesi (1983) in the work describing part of the strictly astronomical equipment (still existing or not), from the times of the Marsili Specola to the Cisalpine Republic. Details on the description of the main instruments, their use and the research Eustachio Manfredi and Eustachio Zanotti did with them can be found in Braccesi (1978 and 1984) and in Braccesi and Baiada (1980).