The room known as the Aldrovandi Museum is part of the premises of the Palazzo Poggi Museums, but the bibliographic material forming the Aldrovandi Collection remains in the Library proper, and is kept for obvious reasons relating to its conservation and use in the Manuscripts and Rare Books Store. It remains one of the most interesting nuclei of old material in the Library and its is for this reason that it is opportune to outline the history of the museum. The collection was probably begun by Aldrovandi around 1549, after his stay in Rome, and was added to up to his death in 1605.
Under the terms of his will the collections and the library were bequeathed to the Senate of Bologna and housed in the Palazzo Pubblico until 1742, when they were transferred to the Institute of Sciences.
There the materials were subjected to various moves and divided up, pillaged by Napoleonic troops, brought back to Italy and then scattered among various University museums. In 1907, with the tricentenary of the death of Aldrovandi, much of the material was recovered and displayed in a new Museum located in a large room in Palazzo Poggi, part of the University Library, to the custody of which it was entrusted by royal decree.
The exquisite display cabinets, designed to imitate the eighteenth-century cases of the Institute of Sciences, contained animals, fossils, books, manuscripts, illustrated plates, xylographic plates and a herbal, all Aldrovandian in origin and illustrating not only the vastness of the collections but also the working methods of the scientist.
Today the principal Aldrovandian heritage of the museum consists of the items relating to his studies of natural history, while all the library material (manuscripts, printed books, watercolour plates etc.,) and related items (xylographic blocks) form part of the resources of the University Library.
Worthy of particular mention is the collection of wood-engravings, cut on pear-wood blocks, in the main by Flemish artists in the second half of the sixteenth century.
These were to be used for the printing of Aldrovandian material, but very often they were never used. The 3,454 that remain represent a collection unique in the world for its antiquity and the quality of the pieces.