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Catalogue of the Collections (STS)


In 1993, a work team composed of M. Berni, P. Brenni, F. Guidi, M. Miniati, G. di Pasquale and F. Principe, all members of the staff or collaborators of the Museo di Storia della Scienza; A. Giatti, from the Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica di Firenze, and F. Vannozzi, from the University of Siena, defined a layout that could provide a model and serve as standard for all of the cataloging activities carried out in the national territory in regard to scientific instruments of historic interest.

The catalogue, developed within the context of the CNR Strategic Project for science museums, provided for various levels of cataloging and fully complied with the proposals of the Central Institute for Cataloging and Documentation (ICCD) of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Affairs, with special reference to the type OA (Artistic Objects) catalogue.
The catalogue was called SIC (Scientific Instruments Catalogue) and was realized thanks also to the collaboration of specialists and experts in scientific instruments who tested it as it was being developed, and to the constant supervision of the ICCD, which assigned one of its own officials to supervise the work of compiling it.

The SIC was destined exclusively to the cataloguing of scientific instruments of historical interest, to industrial archaeology evidence, and to machines and equipment no longer used. It appeared as the center of an information system, could be connected to various archives and data bases, and represented not only a tool in which converged the results of studies and research projects, but also as a point of departure for new research projects and investigations.

Upon completion of the development of the catalogue's base format, the work of testing and updating began, on the basis of which the catalogue has been reformulated according to the indications of the ICCD. This consisted basically of defining a format in keeping with the catalogued lists produced by the ICCD for cataloging artistic, archaeological and architectural property, compatible with them and allowing information to be exchanged among all of them.

Starting from these premises, the STS (Scientific Instruments) catalogue has been produced, in agreement and in strict collaboration with the ICCD.

The STS catalogue has been conceived in relation to three catalogue levels: inventory lists, first cataloging cards and cataloging cards. For each of these three levels the layout indicates the compulsory fields, i.e., those which must be present so that the cataloguing card may be defined as belonging to the corresponding level.

The catalogue appears as a ductile tool, which can be modified to meet the cataloging requisites relevant to a wide range of objects, and according to the developments and modifications called for by new studies and further knowledge.

The catalogue is thus, basically, an exchange format, a cataloging scheme which allows for both manual and computerized compiling.

To aid in compiling it, tables have been prepared which can be employed in certain cases as check lists or as controlled, but not pre-established, dictionaries. This is the case, for instance, of the "Materials and technology" (MTC) field, for which the illustrative table, which does not include all of the possibilities, can be enriched on various occasion by the direct experience of the compilers.

The STS catalogue may appear complex, but in reality it lends itself to numerous applications. It may give rise to simple print formats, of the size required by the circumstances, such as captions or descriptions for printed catalogues. That is, it can function as a tool of research and verification, but also as the basis for publications, both scientific and popular.

The problems posed by scientific instruments and technological evidence, the current lack of personnel able to identify immediately this or that instrument, the difficulties inherent to the availability of the instruments, have imposed the choice of a tool that could be utilized by both specialists and generic catalogers.

The catalogue card is divided into parts. The first includes data on the record as a whole (Codes, Other codes, Hierarchy). The second part concerns the instrument which is being catalogued: collocation (Location, Other locations, Availability, Inventory data), description (Object, Category, Chronology, Technical Data, Conservation, Restoration, Analytical Data).

The third part regards subjects related to study of the instrument (Names, Cultural Definition).
The fourth part contains data of legal, administrative and historical nature (Legal status and constraints, References sources and documents, Reference to other catalogues, Compiling). An Annotations field is also provided, for any observations and comments which the compiler deems suitable to include.

It should be emphasized that many fields can be links to archives. In cases where these archives are available, it is possible to connect to them and obtain catalogues of the bibliographic, photographic, or restoration type and authority files of names of persons or exhibitions.

The layout, although utilizable on paper, has been optimized for electronic data processing, in particular for utilization with a relational database. Considering the continuous, turbulent evolution of informatics technology and of the programs used for electronic data processing, it is possible to use a paper layout, which users can implement on the program of their choice, while entrusting the compatibility of the data to the exchange format developed by ICCD.

The STS cataloging card is intended to fulfill various needs. In the first place, it must satisfy the requisites for protecting our country's historic-scientific heritage, and this is done through the parts which provide for compiling an "identity card" for each instrument, allowing it to be not only safeguarded and protected but also managed properly. Moreover, cataloging is not intended as a constraint placed on the central administration of the peripheral agencies responsible for conservation of the instrument. It represents instead a powerful tool which allows the conservator to improve management of the instrument, by recording and storing its movements, as well as through links with other data bases of the local institution, with the advantage of providing scholars in this sector with a computerized system of data search.

Although it may seem very complicated, in reality the STS catalogue lends itself to numerous different applications: it can give rise to simple print formats of the size required by the various circumstances. For example, we can print catalogue cards in the form of captions accompanying the objects in an exhibition, or as descriptions for a general catalogue destined to a generic public, or as hygiene cards, indispensable, at least in Italy, for sending an instrument to a temporary exhibition. We can obtain different kinds of information, depending on research requisites, and chronological indices, either by type of instrument or by inventor, or in any case arranged to satisfy the requirements of the user.

The STS catalogue may be consulted at the site:




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