The Physics Instruments Museum was founded in 2017 deriving from the Museum of Computing Machinery of the University of Pisa, which in turn was created in 1993, with the establishment of a ministerial commission and an initial funding.
The proposal of the Calculation Tools Museum wanted to continue the experience of the CCSSS (Center for the Conservation and Study of Scientific Instruments) established by the Physics Department in 1989 in order to identify, classify, restore and preserve the scientific instruments or anything else of historical value within the competence of the Department. Professor Roberto Vergara Caffarelli of the Physic Department was appointed as head of the Centre. Initially, the headquarters of the Centre consisted of some rooms of the Physics Department in Piazza Torricelli and two rooms of the Palazzo della Sapienza, where the astronomical instruments of the Antica Specola Pisana were already preserved. The activity of the Centre began in 1989 with an exhibition on the Scientific Instruments of the University of Pisa in the 18th and 19th century organized at the National Museum of San Matteo.
The aim of the new museum was to document the evolution of the history of calculus through its own tools. In 1994 with Professor Roberto Vergara Caffarelli, Dr. Claudio Luperini and Carlo Guidi (Technician of the Physics Department), a working group was created to carry on all the activities of the Centre. In the same period the complex of buildings constituting the Old Public Slaughterhouses of Pisa, owned by the Municipality of Pisa, were granted to the University of Pisa to house the Museum. In 1995 restoration work began in the area of the Old Slaughterhouses. The activities of the center continued both in the field of scientific instruments, where Carlo Guidi began the restoration of the various pieces of the collection, and in the field of computer science, where the collection of large and small computers from all over Italy began. All this was institutionally represented by the Centre of which Dr. Claudio Luperini of the Physics Department, was appointed Conservator in 2000. The museum was inaugurated in 2000 and took the name Museum of Computing Machinery.
The details of the following story are complex. After the Museum was established, in 2001, the Physics Department, by a resolution of the Department Council (no. 23 of 3 April), entrusted on loan to the Galileo Galilei Foundation (reactivated for this purpose in 1998) all the museum collections of the Centre. All the furniture, equipment, hardware and software in use at the Centre were included.
Unfortunately, the Ministry’s funding has gradually decreased like the spaces connected by the Municipality have. For many years the Museum was opened only on request or on rare occasions. Despite the difficulties, thanks to the commitment of Professor Roberto Vergara Caffarelli in particular, in the first years, the Museum has managed to put together a collection of great importance also at an international level, thanks to recoveries, donations and acquisitions.
In 2011, with funding obtained by the Department of Computer Science, the results of an original story research were finalized in new settings. Since then, the Museum has been open regularly and offers a wide range of educational activities and workshops. The position has been further consolidated with the establishment of the University Museum Network, with which the Museum now finds a prominent position within the organization of the University of Pisa.
With the Rector’s Decree no. 21673 of 27 April 2017, the part of the Museum of Computing Machinery dedicated to scientific instruments of physics and astronomy detaches from the part dedicated to calculating machines and computers. This part remains in the Museum of Computing Machinery and constitute the new Physics Instruments Museum.
The enhancement and increase of the patrimony of the Museum of Computing Machinery and of the Physics Instruments Museum is today also due to the Galileo Galilei Foundation as part of its mission to spread scientific culture.