How to measure distances, angles and time? What is light and how does it propagate? How to create and destroy rocks and what are they composed of? What was drawing used for and how to draw? How did our grandparents and great-grandparents do the calculations? A visit to Museo Michelangelo answers to these and more questions. Especially if guided for free by educators, young students of this school, properly trained. The itinerary is partially interactive.
This museum exhibits rocks and minerals, scientific tools, didactic models and technological equipment for audio, video, writing and calculation dated back to 1850 and 2000. It tells how they were used, sometimes letting visitors interact. Thanks to these objects it is possible to retrace the history of the school of the last 150 years, a micro-history about Caserta. The museum exhibits temporarily three works from Andrea Sparaco (1936-2011) too.
The most ancient part of the collection comes from Istituto Tecnico “Garibaldi” in Caserta, designed during the Bourbon age and been open since 1864.
The topographical section shows the most ancient and important objects in terms of rarity and typology. Topography is the science that studies measuring equipment and methods useful to find shape and dimensions of a certain part of the Earth, within the maximum radius of 25 km from the vantage point. Therefore the Earth can be approximated with a plan and so be drawn without distortions related to projections.
Giuseppe Spano (1806 –1873) was an expert and well-known craftsman, inventor of patents, active from 1836 as driver of the Real Officio Topografico of the Kingdom of Naples. His is the theodolite, signed “Giuseppe Spano e figlio”, dated back to “Napoli, 1869”, paid in advance 1000 lire of that time. The theodolite is the main instrument of topography and it is used to measure horizontal and vertical angles accurately.
The sample brim or the meter item was created in 1869 by G. Spano and his son. What is it used for? It says the exact length of the linear meter! But why was it important to know in the years following the unification of Italy? The decimal metric system was created in 1793 in France and came into effect in 1800 under the Napoleon Consultate. It was adopted by the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1844, the first among the Italian States; only in 1861 this system came into effect in the Italian Kingdom and so the South.
The water level (Gaetano Spano, about 1880) keeps the cartouche with national distinctions awarded to the prestigious Neapolitan firm. This instrument was described by Vetruvius (De architettura) and it uses the principle of the communicating vessels. Was it really an accurate instrument though? Of course it was! Luigi Vanvitelli used it to design the Caroline aqueduct, as evidenced by the representation published in the Declaration of the Royal Palace drawings in Caserta (1756).
Unknown is the origin of two beautiful solid and robust theodolites from 1850 – 1870, produced in Paris by Johann Josef Brunner (1804 – 1862) or perhaps by his sons, active until 1895.
The Greek word “cleps” means “to hide”. Thanks to the cleps model Ignazio Porro (1801 –1875) hid some horizontal and vertical graduated circles inside topographical instruments in 1854. Therefore they could be protected against impact and bumps and so it was possible to build them in glass, gaining more precision. The exposed specimen was designed by Salmoiraghi (1875 – 1900).
The easy square is necessary for corner surveyor alignments and it came from the Latin groma. The cylindrical specimen is classical (between 1850-1860); the octagonal one can be dated back to 1900-1925. The graphometer (Giuseppe Spano and son – Napoli, perhaps 1865-1870) was used as a graduated square, buti t could measure horizontal angles too. The square collection exhibits all types of specimens, even retroreflective and refracting ones.
So thoroughly equipped and ancient is the collection of the levels. The level is an instrument used to make surfaces horizontal; the levels are instruments dedicated to measure the height relative differences of the Earth’s surface.
The planimeter measured surface areas on drawings. Its roller system was invented by the Swiss Coradi in 1881; the specimen shown was created by Coradi himself (about 1900).
The logspace (Officina Filotecnica, 1875-1899) was used to execute multiply and divide instructions thanks to logarithms. NASA was able to calculate flight plans to take 12 men on the moon (1969 – 1972) using slide rules. The specimens shown are from the S.I.P.I Milano and Dennert & Pape Hamburg dated back to about 1964.
The Computer Program 101 is a true jewel of Italian innovation and design. Marketed by Olivetti from 1965, it was bought by Buonarroti in 1966 and was the first tabletop electronic computer, the ancestor of our laptops, though it was without keyboard, mouse, screen, DVD etc.
The didactic models of the Museum are almost all valuable creations of two famous manifactures: Paravia from Torino (38 specimens, 1916-20) and Toffoli from Calalzo di Cadore (BL) (379 specimens, 1950 – 1970).
The topographical history section completes the previous one. It exhibits instruments used from antiquity to 1600 for direct and indirect measures of distance, angles and time. They are wooden copies working and created in 2008 because original ones do not exist. These instruments do not have telescopes or microscopes since optics entered the topographical instruments only in the first years of 1700. Groma, lychnia, chorobate, baculo, square, the geometrical or folding square, archipendolo etc. use the similarity between triangles and Pythagoras’s and Thales’s theorems to measure indirectly distances and angles, thanks to techniques largely unknown today but quite precise.
The mineralogy section exhibits 100 specimens selected from the collection of over 300 samples of rocks and minerals donated in 2009 by F. P. Desiderio. Others have been donated recently by Prof. Modarelli and Prof. Rea.
This collection is composed of igneous rock, both intrusive and extrusive, sedimentary and metamorphic rock with samples coming from each part of Italy: the Alps, the Appennini, Sicily, Sardinia and Isola d’Elba; some samples are also from Brasil, Iran and the Canaries. Two microscope workstations offer to visitors the emotion of observing directly thin visible crystals of rocks.
What was drawing used for? The answer to this question is given in the section dedicated to the history of technical drwaing from the Middle Ages to the coming of CAD (Computer Aided Design). This was used to design objects that do not yet exist, to detect metrically the existing objects, to reconstruct the shape and appearance of the missing or in a state of ruin ones and to understand the harmonius relations among the parts of the buildings. In this section it is possible to admire some representations of famous drawings of historical monuments belonging to our territory and 20 out ot 47 drawings by Eng. M. Scarnati dated back to 1923-28 and donated by his daughter. The core of this itinerary is the reconstruction of a surveyor’s office (1960-70), complete with furnishings and equipment, such as nibs, ink, office machines, books etc.
The section dedicated to pure and natural science exhibits only a small part of the instruments used in the well-equipped scientific cabinets of the Istituto Provinciale Agrario. We highlight the following objects: the curious box of «Caoutchouc e Guttaperca» (Pirelli & C./Milano – Spezia, 1902); the Nobili astatic galvanometer (Filippo de Palma, Napoli, 1864), a ubiquitous instrument in physics laboratories of the seconda half of 1800; the prism spectroscope by Bunsen-Kirchhoff (1890 ca), the Fortin barometer (E. Zanchi, Roma, 1928), models of crystalline structures of minerals made of iron and glass by Paravia, 1916-20, the pair of the Morse telegraph both receiver and transmitter (“Officine Meccaniche Pio Pion, Milano”, 1880 ca) and some telephones (1880 – 1900).
The section dedicated to technology, calculation and multimedia tells the evolution of office machines – used for writing, administrative-commercial and scientific calculation – cameras and apparatus used to reproduce sound, images, videos between 1950 and 1990. Some of them are unmissable: disc audio player and magnetic tape audio players dated back to 1950-60 by Geloso and Lesa, Epson HX 20 (1983), considered as the first laptop large-scale commercialized, the famous Divisumma 24 Olivetti (1964), the cornerstone of office work automation; the VCR N1500 Philips (1973), the first domestic device of its kind.