The Marsili Museum, in the University of Bologna Library, was established and opened to the public in 1930, the bicentenary of the death of Luigi Ferdinando Marsili, founder of the Institute of Sciences. The space for the museum was found by restructuring several old rooms adjacent to the Aula Magna of the Library. The new museum, decorated with magnificent white and gold stuccoes was the setting for the large equestrian portrait of Marsili, by A. Zanchi and A. Calza. brought from the atrium of the Library, together with the beautiful celebratory sculpture representing Genius and Virtue by P. Tadolini.
In elegant cherry-wood display cases, in the form of vertical cabinets along the walls, and horizontal and pitch-roofed cases in the centre of the room, were displayed Marsilian manuscripts relating to the life of the Bolognese scientist, books connected with his scientific and historic interests, objects from his collection and publications to mark the bicentenary celebrations.
In the course of recent decades many exhibits have been moved from one part of the Library to another. This applies particularly to those relating to the Military Arts (models of cannons, fortifications, sections of guns etc.) which have been moved to the premises of the University Museums in Palazzo Poggi. Currently the display cabinets mainly contain bibliographic material, both manuscript and printed, that once belonged to, or was written by the very same Luigi Ferdinando Marsili.
The sheer breadth of Marsili’s interests can be gleaned from his studies, which encompassed subjects as diverse as hydrology, hydraulics, geology, ethnology and archaeology and in effect practically the whole range of human knowledge.
Among the most interesting exhibits are the Turkish “Camisia”, sheets inscribed with talismanic magico-religious tracts and worn by Turkish soldiers under their shirts as protection against the dangers of war ; the plan of Buda under Turkish domination and beseiged by Austrian troops, drawn by the Turks in late 1600; the Formal Act of Foundation of the Institute of Sciences following the donation by Marsili of his collection; the book Bevanda Asiatica which Marsili wrote at the end of 1600 and which constitutes one of the very first references to coffee as a drink and not a medicament.