Historical Collections

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Historical Collections

Historical Collections include various types of objects (busts, rounds of relief portraits, memorabilia, artworks and technical equipment) documenting the history and activity of the Royal Geological Survey. They are constituted by:

The Collection of geological and topographical reliefs. The Collection of geological and topographical 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 is 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, 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.

These artefacts are now catalogued by the “artwork card” of Pre-catalog (OA) of the Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation (ICCD) of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Tourism (MiBACT) and described in the monograph “I Plastici Geologici del Servizio Geologico d’Italia”(The Geological reliefs of the Geological Survey of Italy).

The technical-scientific historical instrumentation. The Collection, which is still  growing and under study, has currently about 250 pieces, and is made up mostly of tools that have supported the research and land surveying activity of the Geological Survey in the course of its history. The objects are grouped according to macro-reference (Laboratory analysis, Geophysics, Geotechnics, Hydrogeology, Hydrography, Mareography, Meteorology, Geological Survey, Topography, Cartography, Photography, Calculation, etc.) depending on the prevailing activity for which they were used. For the most important instruments, an inventory project is in progress in collaboration with the Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation (ICCD); the project makes use the of the Card for the scientific and technical heritage (PST- Scientific and Technological Patrimony).


Busts and memorabilia. Objects of various types and workmanship document today the history and the activities of the Geological Survey, including 5 busts (in bronze and plaster ) that depict among others Quintino Sella, Felice Giordano (first director of the Royal Geological Office), Giuseppe Meneghini, all with their wooden pedestals; a series of framed pictures with portraits of famous people or diplomas and merit awards, commemorative plaques, round bronze low-reliefs, statuettes, medals, lithographic stones with engraving samples;  a large oil on canvas picture of the Tiber River; some small paintings in oil, 3 historical maps on canvas, 9 topographic relief maps in plastic with wooden frame, and many other educational topographic scale models.


The historical furnishings. The historical furnishings of the Royal Survey were built between 1800 and  1900, following the museological style of the time. Made largely in wood and glass, they were the main part of the set of exhibitors of the Museum Collections and of the Geological Survey Library in the historic headquarter of Largo di S. Susanna 13 in Rome. The furniture, made ​​at the Survey’s interior joinery, are superbly crafted and made with different woods, using the most refined for exposed surfaces. The conservation of furniture of this kind offers, in addition to their functional use, also the opportunity to convey an historical taste and museological conception.



- The Collection of geological and topographical reliefs

- The technical and scientific instrumentation

- Busts and memorabilia

- The historical furnishings