Fondaco dei Turchi, Venice

Venice, September 2012 while working on REcall, a major EU funded research project, led by Gennaro Postiglione, Politecnico di Milano, I visited the Fondaco dei Turchi.  One of the oldest buildings of Venice, it has housed Venice’s Natural History museum since 1924.  Not expecting much, as I had read a few lack-lustre reviews, my pessimism was initially vindicated.  The museum seemed to be a hymn to MDF, Perspex and enormous digital prints.  Most of the room is taken up by massive displays; the ubiquitous ‘digital interactive interface’, video projection and the occasional ‘real’ object isolated in a glowing plastic vitrine.  However, as you continue into the heart of the museum you find several rooms that have been spared ‘modernisation’. These include the reconstruction of a small cabinet of curiosities with conjoined twin calves and a mermaid and an original scientific collection of small stuffed birds, fish and model viscera. The museum has had the sensitivity to preserve some elements of its own history and the history of scientific display.