I’ve fulfilled my lifelong dream to visit the world’s first Natural History Museum ‘La Specola’ in Florence. I’ve had a copy of the book Encyclopaedia Anatomica since I can remember and for whatever reason have pawed over the images of the anatomical wax models, and the rather racy silk pillows and silver fringed shrouds they are kept on. They did not disappoint.
This was a few small rooms of the complete museum. First up was the geology section and the main body was room after room of taxidermy, few labels, an air of benign neglect and absolutely perfect. Everything just being what it is and dished out in the way it was as it opened in the 18th century. It must have been mind blowing.
I lament the updating of museums to include ‘experiences’ and wish the air of quiet respect and revery were still the flavour of the day.
A panther made of Jasper with eyes of Citrine quartz circa 16th century with a 17th century silver base.
An ornamental disc of lapis lazuli on slate with adorned with a star of citrine quatrz, made in the late 16th century, along with its fleur de lis friend below.
A round snuffbox made of orthoclase in granite from the 18th century.
Twenty six rooms of this kind of display, most much simpler than this.
Where the cabinet panels were damaged, they were replaced by brown painted glass.
No one would dream of making this kind of display case today. Far to time consuming and expensive. So precious.
This is what happen at some point along the way when you get Syphilis, so be careful out there!
Hand written labels, virtually non-existent in today’s museum display rhetoric.