The Beauty of Knowledge: an exhibition on Italian research, between history and future
Is there a distinctive feature of doing research “the Italian way”? And if so, what is it? These are the questions posed by the exhibition Italy: the Beauty of Knowledge, curated by Riccardo Pietrabissa.
Promoted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the exhibition is organized by the National Research Council in collaboration with Fondazione Idis-Città della Scienza in Naples, Museo Galileo in Florence, MUSE Museo delle Scienze in Trento, Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci” in Milan.
The exhibition takes visitors on a journey of discovery of the strong links that unexpectedly exist between the many ways Italy can express scientific excellence in many different sectors. The strong thesis of the exhibition is that the beauty for which Italy is famous around the world – a wealth of culture, traditions, protection of the landscape, promotion of the quality of life – is the product of a history that has always been centred on research.
This relationship between beauty and research is so intimate and settled that it has become a natural and widespread feature for Italy, as suggested by the evocative images of Stefano Incerti’s film that accompanies the exhibition.
So Italy looks to the future by walking on the shoulders of giants, as the exhibition tells us, combining – in the five thematic areas that compose it – valuable objects from the past with the most advanced fruits of today’s research.
In space observation, for example, the road that leads from Galileo’s telescope to the Vega satellite launcher or to Cosmo SkyMed, the ‘dual’ Earth observation satellite system designed for both civil and military use, is long and short at the same time. As is the path that separates, in the field of research on the human body, Paolo Mascagni’s nineteenth-century anatomical studies from the robotic hand Azzurra, a revolutionary prosthesis that can be controlled by thought.
Together with some milestones of the Italian genius, the exhibition offers the opportunity to discover or rediscover less known instruments and figures of our history of science, such as Felice Fontana’s eudiometer, an instrument designed at the end of the eighteenth century to measure air purity in public places. Thanks to our scientists and innovators, this historic attention to the environment today is reflected in an articulated series of lines of research, including research for the development of sustainable fibres from food waste, such as the silk-like fabric obtained from orange waste or the synthetic leather obtained from grape marc.
A sector that reflects the ability to innovate Italian tradition at the service of quality of life is agri-food research. Healthy foods that have always been part of our diet, such as tomatoes, olive oil and pasta, today are the starting point for new functional foods, enriched with bioactive and antioxidant substances.
The enhancement of the past through instruments of the future, able to radically change our perception of and interaction with the world, goes through technologies applied to cultural heritage, such as those that allow us to travel through time and walk through the Forum of Augustus, virtually reconstructed in its original form, simply wearing a 3D virtual reality headset.
These are only some of the stages of a surprising journey through the variety and richness of Italian research that will be hosted at Italian embassies abroad. To tell citizens, scientists and companies abroad about the many faces of our Country that courageously continues to keep beauty and knowledge together.