The Collection of historical geological reliefs of ISPRA

The Collection of historical geological reliefs of ISPRA


The Collection of geological reliefs, made mostly in plaster or metal and then painted in oil, was realised ​​in support of the Geological Map of Italy from 1877 to 1920 (dates of the first and last opera of the Collection). Even though it consists today of only 17 works, it’s one of the most remarkable of its kind in Italy, as the geological plan-reliefs represent some Italian areas relevant for the industrial economy (Isola d’Elba, Massa Marittima, Montecatini-Val di Cecina, Sicilia), the geological risk (Monte Vesuvio, Monte Etna, Provincia di Napoli, Campi Flegrei, Isola d’Ischia, Vulcano Laziale or because they represent significant areas from a geological and geomorphological point of view (Monte Bianco, Monte Argentario, Monte Soratte).

They were commissioned to meet the demand for a more effective representation of the geological reality compared to the one provided by the geological maps, of which they were always precise transpositions. They can in fact be considered the 3D images of those times.

They were used not only as a teaching tool and in decision-making contexts but also to promote and disseminate the Italian geological knowledge: some of these plan-reliefs were also exposed in the Universal Expositions.



The Collection of historical geological reliefs of ISPRA and the web

As the Museum of Geological and Historical Collections of the Geological Service of Italy is currently closed, it was decided to overcome this obstacle by creating an online virtual exhibition, thus passing from a material collection to an immaterial one, which has the merit, thanks to the web, that it can be visited by anyone from any place, overcoming the geographical barrier and expanding the target of users.

This virtual exhibition therefore renews the traditional role of the museum as a cultural and scientific hub, projecting into the future through the web, with the certainty that many more people than have ever seen it in the past, will know not only the Collection of Historical Plastics of ISPRA, but also the entire heritage of Geological and Historical Collections.


The enhancement of the Collection

The collection of historical geological reliefs owned by ISPRA is therefore to be considered as a set of both scientific and artistic works, having been realized and hand-painted in unique pieces, but with scientific aims and methods.  Despite having been restored in recent years and having been shown in some exhibitions, these works are currently not accessible to the public due to the lack of a museum site.

The Collection, considered to be representative of the image of the territory, was involved in 2011 in the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the Unification of Italy and shown in the exhibition "Alle radici dell’Identità Nazionale. Italia Nazione Culturale" at the Museum of Risorgimento in the Vittoriano Monument in Rome. In 2012 ISPRA published the monograph “I Plastici Geologici del Servizio Geologico d’Italia” (The Geological reliefs of the Geological Survey of Italy), which deals with the historical context of the works, analyzes the maps of which they are three-dimensional transpositions, and reports their filing according to the regulation of the Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation (ICCD), of the Ministry of cultural heritage (MiBAC).


The on line exhibition: "The historical reliefs of the Geological Survey of Italy"

The exhibition "The historical reliefs of the Geological Survey of Italy" was developed on the basis of the technical specifications of the MOVIO (Mostre Virtuali on-line, Online Virtual Exhibitions) software, designed and managed by the ICCU (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico) and the 'OTEBAC (Osservatorio Tecnologico per i Beni e le Attività Culturali) of MiBACT, to allow the dissemination of Italian cultural heritage through a new multimedia tool.

This exhibition, realized by ISPRA’s Museum Activities Area, shows the 17 geological reliefs stored in ISPRA's Geological and Historical Collections by participating, through the MOVIO platform, to a series of virtual exhibitions of other Institutes and Public Bodies. It displays a peculiar theme, that of geological plastic art, presented for the first time in Italy in the form of an online exhibition.

ISPRA's geological Reliefs are not only valuable artifacts, but the product of a territory representation technique, dating back to the 19th and 20th centuries, being an example of three-dimensional geological mapping of geological and mining particularly interesting areas.

The exhibition offers an overview along a well-framed route that shows the works, the restorations made on them; the ancient cartography on which they were made and the recent Geological Map of Italy; the Catalog realized in 2012 (available online), a substantial bibliography on the subject, and finally, a section dedicated to the events in which the reliefs were shown to the public.

Keywords: museumday IMD IMD2019

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