Florence’s science museum, located near the Uffizi, reopened this week after a two-year restoration Now called “Museo Galileo” after the great scientist, the museum features super-technological display-cases, and visitors can use interactive video-guides to explore their contents. The new name emphasizes the central role of the Galilean heritage in the Florentine institution’s activities and cultural profile.
The museum is home to the only surviving instruments designed and built by Galileo himself. The most important are two original telescopes and the objective lens of the telescope with which Galileo discovered Jupiter’s moons. More generally, the Museum is the repository for the priceless scientific collections of the two dynasties that once ruled Florence: the Medici and the House of Lorraine.
On the occasion of its reopening, the Museo Galileo is exhibiting for the first time relics of the great scientist (two fingers and a tooth), deemed lost for over a century and only recently found again due to a stroke of luck on the part of Florentine collector Alberto Bruschi and his daughter Candida – read more about how they found Galileo’s missing parts (article coming soon -on Tuesday June 15).
The 12th-century Palazzo Castellani that houses the museum has been structurally renovated and furnished with state-of-the-art display cases highlight the aesthetic quality of the objects on view, while ensuring their perfect conservation.
New technology, website, virtual tour
In order to communicate information about the 1000 or so beautiful instruments on display (some seem unbashedly artistic and you have to wonder if they were practical for science too), visitors may rent portable interactive video-guides. The device, the size of a GPS navigator, offers access to relevant hypertext pages, 3D animations, and biographies through a touch-screen that has been designed also with special needs in mind. It’s simple to use because it recognizes objects in the museum automatically thanks to RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology. Visitors can use the video-guides to select an itinerary through the museum tailored to their specific interests (full, short, and kids).
But if you can’t make it to Florence you can still access all the information about those 1000 objects on the museum’s new website, which has a virtual tour and online catalogue. All the videos from the portable device can also be watched online, such as this one on what Galileo could accomplish with his compass.
Free wifi outside the museum
This is good news: wi-fi internet outside of the Museum provides access to information on the monumental sundial in Piazza dei Giudici and to web pages presenting the contents of the Museo Galileo’s exhibition halls. The texts are currently available in Italian and English, with other languages to be added in the near future.
Any device can technically connect to this system but if you have a qr-code enabled smartphone, you’re especially in luck!
To use this wifi, simply connect to the network “MUSEOGALILEO” (password-free, apparently), and then navigate to http://www.museogalileo.it.
Win a trip to Florence and the Museo Galileo!
Win a trip for a family of four (although nothing in the rules says you have to be a family!) on the trail of Galileo. You get three nights’ accomodation, a personalized tour of the new Galileo Museum, and transfer to Pisa and to other locations related to Galileo. This contest expires June 28 2010 and winners must book their stay to be between July 19-31 or Sept 6-30 2010.