Catania University, founded in 1434, is the most ancient Sicilian University, and an extraordinary cultural and intellectual melting pot of national relevance. Almost six centuries of research, education and dissemination of knowledge are testified by 22 entities, including collections, archives, museums and the botanical garden. Moreover, Science City offers interactive experiences in dedicated spaces.
The SiMuA and Museum of Knowledges and Sicilian Mirabilia institution
The Museum System (SiMuA) was founded in 2015, in order to connect the different Departments, to promote preservation, conservation and valorisation of each and every research topic. The initiative was favourably received by the scientific delegates, who got involved in a broader-scale project.
In fact, only three years later, each and every museum was challenged in setting common grounds in the form of a shared museum, representative for all the academic heritage, named Museum of Knowledges and Sicilian Mirabilia. The University Palace, seat of the Rectorate, in the historical centre, appeared as the most appropriate location, showcasing both the common background and network of singular entities, in a shared place.
The visit of the Museum allows the public to discover, through six interdisciplinary rooms, the history of the University (with materials from the artistic and historic collections, historic and ceramographic archives), and to follow the scientific developments achieved in the main research topics: law and history (objects from the artistic and historic collections, historical fund of Juridical Sciences Library), Medicine and Physics (models and instruments from the Lorenzo Bianchi Biology and Human Anatomy Museum and the ancient Physics instruments collection), landscape and urbanistic design (Museum of Representation).
Moreover, there are several objects from the Archaeology Museum, the Benedictine Monastery Museum (with some archaeological collections from the Catania Regional Park); the Museums of Mineralogy, Petrography and Volcanology; Palaeontology; Zoology and Butterfly House; Botanical Garden and Herbarium; materials from the Collections of Entomology; Agrobiodiversity; Germplasm Bank.
The Academic Museums Network fostered this complex collaboration, promoting both the collaboration among the scientific delegates, and the involvement of students, acting as guides of the exhibition in the framework of internships. Moreover, for some institutions, the private-public cooperation with the dedicated enterprise Officine Culturali allows fruition of the University heritage.
The Academic Museums Network is a dynamic actor in renewing the concept of museum, often associated with immobility. Its involvement in numerous initiatives, both at a local and international level (University open days, University for the city, European museums night, European music night, European Researcher’s night, FAI – Italian Environmental Fund initiatives, collaboration with the CNR-National Research Council on an art exhibition for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) aims at reaching out to the wider public.
SiMuA future perspectives
In the near future, SiMuA will be heavily involved in the national accreditation of museums of many of its structures and in the creation of a digital cataloguing system of its heritages according to the most modern standards.
Innovation plays also a significant role, by promoting the development of interactive and inclusive digital tools. The SiMuA was already implementing web-apps and virtual tours of the collections before the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, these unprecedented circumstances pushed even further the use and design of new appealing ways of enjoying cultural contents, organizing events and disseminate academic culture.
Awareness on the role of new technologies, not intended as substitutes of real-life experiences, is a powerful aspect to consider in the coming future to attract attention on University Museums and to open the path to learning opportunities so far unattainable. For the phase 2, and for the future in general, another aspect will be taken into account, that is the opportunity to explore the urban landscape of Catania, included in the UNESCO list since 2002, as an open-air museum.