Friday, August 21, 2009

La Specola

The Museum of Zoology and Natural History, "La Specola" is located in Florence, next to the Pitti Palace. The name "Specola" means observatory, a reference to the astronomical observatory founded there in 1790. It now forms part of the Museo di Storia Naturale di Firenze.

The museum has deep ties to history; parts of the collection trace back to the Medici Family. It is known for its collection of wax anatomical models from the 18th century. It's the oldest scientific Museum of Europe.

This museum is located in the former Palazzo Torrigani at Via Romana 17, near the Pitti Palace. The Imperial Regio Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale (The Imperial-Royal Museum for Physics and Natural History) was founded in 1771 by Grand Duke Peter Leopold to publicly display the large collection of natural curiosities such as fossils, animals, minerals and exotic plants acquired by several generations of the Medici. At the time of its opening, and for the first years of the 19th century, it was the only scientific museum or Wunderkammer of its kind specifically created for the public to view. It opened on 21 February 1775 to the general public.

Today the museum spans 34 rooms and contains not only zoological subjects, such as a stuffed hippopotamus (a 17th-century Medici pet, which once lived in the Boboli Gardens), but also a collection of anatomical waxes, an art developed in Florence in the 17th century for the purpose of teaching medicine. This collection is very famous worldwide for the incredible accuracy and realism of the details, copied from real corpses. Also in La Specola on display are scientific and medical instruments. Parts of the museum are decorated with frescoes and pietra dura representing some of the principal Italian scientific achievements from the Renaissance to the late 18th century.

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