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The Portal

Technological-scientific documentation constitutes a considerable part of the Italian archival heritage. It includes not only materials from the Middle Ages and early modern age, but also from before and after Unification, with special reference to the roles played by the scientific and technological communities in the construction of the national identity and of the unitary state.

Bringing together over 30 years of inventories, studies and research on this documentation, the Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze detta dei XL, in collaboration with the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, set up the Portal for the Archives of Science and Technology in Italy.

The Portal, developed in collaboration with ICAR (Central Institute for Archives) makes it possible to:

  • find over 1,500 collections of scientific research institutions, and personal papers of scientists, held in over 200 institutes throughout Italy, with information on content, chronological details, research tools, and accessibility
  • read stories on the people and institutions who played a fundamental role in the history of science in Italy. These stories are useful for understanding the contribution of the Italian research system not only to scientific progress understood as a supranational competitive enterprise, but also to the social and economic development of the country;
  • consult a wealth of bibliographic resources, curated by the Museo Galileo in Florence, which offers the possibility of exploring new perspectives for research and reflection;
  • learn more about best archival practices, with a view to encourage scientific communities and individual researchers to safeguard not only their own documentation, but also the material produced by their organizations, public and private;
  • signal and propose archival collections for inclusion in the portal, and the result of research work for publication.

The Scientific Director of the portal is Prof. Giovanni Paoloni (Sapienza-Università di Roma).


Archives of science and technology in Italy

Scientific documentation, in all its different formats, constitutes a significant part of Italian archival heritage. However, the discovery, or rather the rediscovery, of its existence and value is quite recent. Early studies and inventorying of science archives date back, in fact, to the late 1980s, when the intense work of recovery and conservation promoted in previous decades by the Accademia Nazionale delle Scienze, detta dei XL, gained support and technical backing from the Archival Administration.

The first result of these projects was the census of 170 science archives which were held outside the Italian State Archives. This early research was the starting point for other initiatives that led in 1991 to the Convegno internazionale di studi "Gli archivi per la storia della scienza e della tecnica" (International Conference on "Archives for the History of Science and Technology"), organized by the Accademia dei XL and the Archival Administration in Desenzano del Garda.

The main result of the conference was to bring the attention of archivists and scholars to the fundamental role science has had in industrial, social, political, and economic development in Italy. Since the 1990s, many steps have been taken to ensure proper preservation of Italy's scientific heritage, by using the opportunities offered by the Internet. Since then, projects and websites dedicated to science archives have taken considerable development: e.g., science institutions in the portal Archivi del Novecento, and the project Voci della Scienza.

From the 1980s to present day, the census data on science archives have considerably increased. The number of identified archives is now approximately 2,000, from the Middle Ages up to the present. Part of them are kept in State Archives and others in different locations. The idea of launching a portal for the archives of science anf technology in Italy originated from this work.


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