The history of the paleontological museum

The Pliocene findings in the Valdarno area

After the foundation of the Academy, happened under the Regent of Etruria Maria Luisa, Giacomo Sacchetti obtained from the new French authorities a headquarters in the Franciscan ex-convent in Figline, where the nucleus of the future Biblioteca Poggiana (Library) and Paleontological Museum began to take form. In particular, for the latter, a combination of factors helped its birth.

Firstly a new approach following the researches promoted by Targioni Tozzetti on the immense deposit of fossils in Valdarno; secondly a donation of a collection of fossils that Domenico Molinari, a monk from Vallombrosa, made to his friend Sacchetti; and finally the particular attention the new French authorities were showing for the cultural Institutions.

Immediately Sacchetti invited (1809) to Figline Georges Cuvier, that had been commissioned by Napoleon to carry out in Italy a journey of reconnaissance and organization of the school system, to vision the numerous findings that were scattered on the floor. The name of Cuvier, who immediately surveyed Figline where he did a first classification of the fossils, has since remained as a prestigious brand in the Museum’s long history.

In the following decades the Museum, by now located in its new headquarters in Montevarchi and opened to the public in 1829, began to increment thanks to new acquisition supported by cash prizes the Academy would give to farmers that would signal the findings.

This increment of materials went hand in hand with the development of a culture that from simple curiosity was evolving towards studies and a new reception of the cultural heritage as a good available to all the community. Nos damus populo! Would exclaim the secretary Francesco Martini in opposition to the Museum’s strategies to the custom of privet collections.

Proof of this “open” behavior were the relationships (sometimes also conflicting) that were forming with similar individuals, but also the continues frequentation of world famous scholars (from Brocchi to Falconer and Major, from the XIX century) such as Ristori, D’Ancona, Capellini whom lead the Academy for about thirty years, but also the recent visit (2004) of an international delegation of paleobotanists from the Padova Convention (G.T.)