Museum of Natural History of Venice, Italy

Museum of Natural History of Venice (Italian: Museo di Storia Naturale di Venezia) is a museum of natural history housed in Fondaco dei Turchi, located on the Grand Canal, Venice, Italy. Its collections relate mainly to the natural history of the Venetian lagoon that surrounds the city. Today it is one of the 11 venues managed by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

Over time, this material was added to, through acquisitions and donations, to make up the present rich, varied and fragile collection that spans 700 million years, with 2 million finds, zoological, entomological and botanical collections, fossils and anatomic preparations, as well as ethnographic collections, ‘marvels’ and a library with over 40 thousand volumes.

The Natural History Museum in Venice was founded in 1923 to hold and display a number of scientific collections from the Museo Correr, the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere e Arti, etc. This has subsequently been expanded, with around two million objects in the collection. These cover botanical, entomological, and zoological specimens, fossils, and ethnographic collections. The library has over 40,000 books.

The Museum is housed in the Fontego dei Turchi, a palace built by the Pesaro family in the first half of the 13th century. Today, the Fontego is one of the most remarkable civic buildings in Venice and one of the most characteristic of those bordering the Grand Canal. It was later purchased by the Republic of Venice, and over the years it was alternately used as a representative site to accommodate foreign dignitaries as well as entrusted to various noble families. An important chapter in its history began in 1621, when the Palace was used as a dwelling place and business site by the Ottoman merchants, who were importing especially wax, oil, raw wool, leather and tobacco into Venice.

From 1860, it began to be totally rebuilt, architecturally inspired by the “double loggia” structure of the Venetian-Byzantine style derived from the sixteenth century plans of Jacopo de’ Barbari. After the restoration, it became home of the “Raccolta Correr”, the early core of the Correr Civic Museum, which was later moved to San Marco Square in the early 1920s.

Since 1923, incorporating the main historical scientific collections of the city, especially those from the Correr Civic Museum, the “Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti”, the private collection of count Alessandro Pericle Ninni, and many others, it became the Museum of Natural History of Venice. Today, with more than two million specimens (animals, plants, fossils, minerals, ethnographic objects, etc.), the Museum is among the reference institutions for natural science research and dissemination in Italy.

In 2011 the palace was delivered completely renovated and the Museale trail was renovated with 16 new rooms, a new garden and a new entrance area. On the ground floor the new cetacean gallery was set up. The main halls of the new route include the following:

Scientific Expedition Room Ligabue – Dedicated to the scientific expedition of the archaeologist Giancarlo Ligabue in Niger (Sahara Gadoufaoua) in 1972-1973, he presents many precious finds including the skeleton of a dinosaur Ouranosaurus nigeriensis, considered one of the most interesting finds in the world of this type. Next is the skeleton of a Sarcosuchus imperator, the largest crocodile in history.

Collect for Amazement and Studying – It is a section dedicated to the great explorers and collectors who contributed to the museum’s scientific collections. This is Giovanni Miani, Count Giuseppe De Reali and anthropologist and patron Giancarlo Ligabue. A reconstruction of the fifteenth-century wunderkammer leads to the modernist museology hall of the second half of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, the Linneian classification and the analytical study of nature.

The Way of Life – Starting from a circular multimedia room animated by a computerized touchless system that projects the images of hundreds of organisms on the planet in any environment like a planetarium, the visitor enters the last part of the path through rooms Themes, devoted to successive examples of declination, in time and in different environments, of the general theme of adapting the forms of organisms to their needs. The visitor can thus read from the truth the infinite solutions developed by evolution over millions of years of life history on our planet.

Collections of the Museum of Natural History The set of collections represents the history of the Museum itself and of the research conducted by naturalists both in the local area and in distant territories. Many collections originate from naturalistic research in the local area, constituting the physical testimony and the historical memory of the territory and its transformation over time. Others, which for the most part come from donations, are instead the result of travels and expeditions to discover unknown lands and have a paleontological, ethnological, anthropological and geographical character.

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The type of collections in the Museum also represents the skills of the scientific staff: there are numerous zoological collections, in particular the entomological collections (the collection of hymenoptera is one of the largest in the world), ornithological and malacological; of particular importance in the botanical field are the ancient herbaria, the algari, the mycological collection.

The scientific collections are therefore the real core of all the activities carried out by the Museum of Natural History. They are linked both to scientific research activities, as well as to didactic and naturally exhibition activities. The scientific heritage of the Museum consists of over two million pieces; to the original nucleus, consisting of the naturalistic collections owned by the Correr Museum and the Veneto Institute of Sciences, Arts and Letters, other collections have been added for donations, deposits or acquisitions. In addition to the historical collections Olivi, Contarini, Nardo, Trois, Spinelli, Zanardini, Innocente, A.P. Ninni, E. Ninni, etc. the Giordani Soika collection (1983), the Bisacco Palazzi collection (1986), the Cesari malacological collection (1993) and, more recently, the Ligabue collection and the Perale ornithological collection are present to name only the major ones. Also worthy of mention are the African ethnological collections by Miani, De Reali and Forin.

Exposure The tour itinerary The suggestive and engaging exhibition has a modern and original museographic layout. The complexity of the contents is mediated by a multi-level communication where the visitor has an active role and interacts with the unusual and captivating set-up. The ground floor of the museum houses two important exhibition areas: – the Cetacean Gallery with the skeleton of a whale and a young sperm whale, – the Aquarium of Tegnùe, which reconstructs a particular submerged rocky environment of the Upper Adriatic. The second floor houses three sections, each of which is actually a museum in the museum: – On the trail of life, dedicated to fossils and paleontology; – To gather to amaze, to gather to study, tells the evolution of naturalistic collecting and the birth of scientific museology; – The strategies of life, illustrates the variety of living forms and the complexity of adaptations and specializations.

Cetaceans Gallery
This is a specimen of huge dimensions that was washed up on the shore on 8th November 1928 in S. Giovanni a Teduccio (Naples), when it was already in an advanced state of decomposition. It had already lost all its whalebones and the lateral back area had been extensively torn. Its state of conservation leads one to believe that it had died several weeks or even a month earlier, before being washed ashore. Its length, including the tail was 18.60 metres, with a maximum height of 3.70 metres in the post cranial area. It took 15 workers three full days to strip the flesh off the skeleton and divide it into four pieces, which were then sent to the Zoological Institute in Naples, and to clean the bones. When it was mounted the bones had to be cleaned, degreased, bleached and consolidated with reversible resins. The installation was all done in steel, under the guidance of the museum’s scientific staff.

Tegnùe Aquarium
This five-metre aquarium holds more than 5,000 litres of water and re-creates the extraordinary eco-system of the tegnùe and their rich varieties of animal life: more than 50 different species of fish and invertebrates. A very accurate reproduction, this is a very effective teaching tool that makes it possible to admire these numerous species as if in their natural habitat.

On the tracks of life
It consists of five rooms that follow the path of life between the fossils, beginning with the first forms of life in the sea to the great animals present at the end of the glacial period in the Italian territory and in particular Veneto with a small final section Dedicated to man.

Fossils are all that remain of only a small number of the species that lived on the planet. Traces of a journey that lasted millions of years that are brought to light by researchers both to understand the past and to imagine the future.

Collecting to astonish, collecting for research
The evolution of naturalist collecting. Rare, curious and precious objects, not only from travels and expeditions to distant lands, but also from everyday life. Natural History collections between aesthetic displays and a carefully ordered scientific tool.

The strategies of life
Form and function in living things. Present-day and extinct species, inhabitants of waters, lands and the air, gigantic to microscopic in size. A journey in the complexity of living forms, marked by profound differences but also by surprising similarities.

Founded at the same time as the National History Museum (1923), the Library is housed in the Fondaco dei Turchi and is intended to provide information for specialists and researchers.

The Natural History Museum of Venice is primarily a scientific research organization, recognized by the Ministero dell’Università e della Ricerca.

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