Old instruments / New Media

Anna Giatti, italy , Paolo Brenni, Italy, Antonio Chiavacci, Italy, Sara Zunino, Italy

The Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica in Florence preserves the scientific heritage of the former Istituto Tecnico di Firenze, which was founded by Grand Duke Leopoldo II in 1850. This heritage consists of several collections (physics, chemistry, natural history, industrial products, etc.), as well as a library.

The Physics Cabinet of the institute has one of the most complete and spectacular European collections of 19th-century physics instruments, which are used for teaching as well as for research. Not only has this instrument collection been scrupulously restored and catalogued in recent decades, but the original furniture and the premises of the physics cabinet have also been refurbished in order to reconstruct it as it appeared around the year 1900.

Because of the characteristics of such a cabinet, the choice was made not to display and present the instruments in the form of a classical didactic museum of the history of science, in which panels, explanations and labels illustrate the artifacts and their history. But the historical instruments very often are not self-evident, and visitors would like to know how they work and what are they used for. Therefore, since most of the instruments of the collection function perfectly, we decided to produce a series of videos that illustrate how these instruments worked and what they were used for.

We now have more than 70 videos available free of charge on our YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/florencefst?feature=watch. These videos last for just a few minutes, and most of them are accompanied by captions that give a brief explanation of the experiments.We simply wish to show how these artifacts worked, what kind of phenomena they produced, or which physical laws they can prove.

We have therefore added a QR code label close to the instruments filmed. With a very simple, free “app” and by using the WiFi network of the cabinet, a visitor can read the QR codes and immediately view the videos on either a smartphone or a tablet. Thus, a “static” collection can be appreciated in a new way. Historical and fragile instruments which cannot be actioned or demonstrated periodically “become alive” and can be better appreciated, giving visitors the opportunity to be involved in an interactive didactic experience.

The exhibition is also expanded by extending it to the web.
During our demonstration we will show some of the videos, accompanying them with explanations of how they were made and how they can be useful, not only in our museum but also for didactic purposes, university courses and historical research. We also hope to appeal to less educated people, arousing their curiosity and providing them with a moving experience by means of the web.

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