Sistema Museale di Ateneo

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Free entry

Museum opening hours:
Monday: 14.00-17.00
Wednesday-Friday: 9.00-12.00

Archive opening hours:
Monday: 9.00-12.00 | 14.30-16.30
Wednesday: 9.00-12.00 | 14.30-16.30
Friday: 9.00-11.00

For Saturday opening hours see the online calendar in the "Visita" section.

Group Bookings and Guided Tours
Tel. + 39 0382 984707
e-mail. mariacarla.garbarino (at)

Contacts & Address

Museo per la Storia dell'Università
(University History Museum)
Palazzo Universitario
Strada Nuova 65 27100
Tel. + 39 0382 984707
mariacarla.garbarino (at)


Prof. Paolo Mazzarello
paolo.mazzarello (at)
Tel. +390382986331-4712

Carla Garbarino
mariacarla.garbarino (at)
Tel. +0390382984707

Franca Banchieri
franca.banchieri (at)
Tel. +39.0382.984709

University History Museum

The idea of a history and medicine museum at the University of Pavia first came about with reforms implemented under Maria Theresa of Austria and her successor, Joseph II.

The second half of the 18th century saw the arrival of Enlightenment reforms at the University of Pavia, until then an almost forgotten outpost of the Austrian Empire. Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria and her successor, Joseph II, known as enlightened monarchs, oversaw the rebirth and blossoming of the old university. They passed educational and scientific reforms and upgraded the university buildings. Consequently, following several attempts, the Magistrato Generale degli Studi (General Studies Board) approved the 1771 Didactic Plan and 1773 Scientific Plan. These were designed to regulate student access to university faculties; attract the best-known and most qualified professors; and eliminate superfluous teaching in favour of more modern, experimental methods (1). To this end, a new library, Anatomy Theatre, Natural History Museum, Chemistry Laboratory, a range of teaching cabinets, Botanical Gardens, and Experimental Physics and Anatomy cabinets were created.

Today's museum, which dates back to 1932, is located in the former Medical Faculty, next to the historical Anatomy Theatre named after Antonio Scarpa, founder of Pavia's Anatomy School. The museum was created to house artefacts displayed at the exhibition in Palazzo Botta to mark the first centenary of Scarpa's death. Organised by Antonio Pensa, President of the 4th Italian Anatomy Society Congress and holder of the Normal Human Anatomy chair, the exhibition was warmly received by both the general public and historians of natural and medical science. The material displayed included written manuscripts, printed works, and anatomical preparations by Scarpa himself (2) and fellow anatomists, Rezia and Panizza, now held in the Anatomy Museum. The Anatomy Cabinet, created and enriched by Scarpa and his successors, was home to the Anatomy Institute for around a century, until it was moved to Palazzo Botta in 1902; the cabinet rooms later formed the Anatomy Institute.

Following the 1932 exhibition, the Anatomy Institute moved to its new home in Via Forlanini. The anatomical material that forms the original core of today's museum collections was then stored in the newly unoccupied rooms of the Palazzo Universitario (the main university building). That same year, the museum received numerous historical objects that had been returned to the university following the History of Science Exhibition in Florence. These included instruments from A. Volta's Physics Cabinet and vascular and osteo-articular pathology preparations held in the former Porta Museum, located in the Surgery Clinic of the old San Matteo Hospital until the latter was moved to the new San Matteo General Hospital.

The present museum was officially inaugurated in 1936. It expanded over the years thanks to objects from other universities, museums (3), and private donations. To our great fortune, Golgi's heirs donated his belongings to the museum. These included his manuscripts, lesson notes, Italian and foreign academic awards, letter collections put in order by his student, Veratti, and, most importantly, his original Nobel Prize certificate (awarded in 1906).

During World War II, the museum was closed and its content moved to a safe place. Immediately after the war, thanks to the support of University Rector, Fraccaro, the museum increased its collections through the acquisition of relics, the discovery of objects and documents, and highly valuable donations. Subsequently, as in the days of its founder, the museum's communicating passage with the portico and courtyard (which access the Aula Scarpa (Scarpa Hall)) was reopened. This gave the museum a large annex that would later house physics instruments acquired, or made to measure, by Volta and his successors, Configliachi, Belli, and Cantoni. In addition to anatomical preparations, physics and surgical instruments, and historical documents and artefacts related to the university, the museum also houses a large amount of material which, due to space restrictions, is not normally on public display, but presented upon rotation or request. Several documents and handwritten manuscripts are catalogued in easy-to-access folders: the writings of Volta, Foscolo, Monti, Spallanzani, Moscati, Golgi, and Oehl, whose complete treatise is held at the museum (although only the preface is on display). Other folders contain the writings of: Valentino Brugnatelli, Romagnosi, Adelaide Cairoli and numerous other leading figures. Of the countless volumes that contain medical records and Luigi Porta's documented experiences, only a small section is on display, while the rest is held in cabinets that also contain other important historical and scientific books.

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