A FOSSIL OF A MUSEUM
Just beyond this elegantly rusted applique, personalized for the Liceo Machiavelli, the classics secondary school of Lucca founded by Elisa Buonaparte, is the Gabinetto di Storia Naturale, Lucca's diminutive, antique, natural history museum.
It's no longer open to the public, sadly, due to funding problems and the fact that the museum is contained within a public school where the traffic of visitors might disturb the very serious students—this is a preparatory school of the very highest standards. Above is an old photograph of a curator at work.
The museum was founded by the grand duke of Tuscany, Leopoldo II di Borbone, and opened its doors in 1857. Originally contained within the Lucca Ducal Palace, it eventually moved to its current location. This is a look at the museum's 16th century ceiling.
Nothing has been touched since its installation here in the mid-nineteenth century. This stand of study documents and illustrations is of the period. (Most of the floors are original except for the one in this first room.)
Many of the original hand-written notes and labels remain.
Of great local importance is this collection of marbles. Just as animals sometimes do, marbles become extinct—a sad thought!
The antique cases still have their original flawed glass.
And they're full of oddities—I'd never seen this shellfish before.
There's something very chic about the look of it all.
It's like the Deyrolle shop in Paris.
These study centers, with their saddle-shaped chairs, stand here and there about the museum. This one has been appropriated as a stand for a tortoise. This floor is original; it's done in terracotta bricks which were then stuccoed and painted "al tappeto," to resemble carpeting.
The collection includes a mummy from Thebes, found in 1820.
I love cats of any kind. This one was once wild here in Lucca but can no longer be found—is it extinct, or has it merely gone away to more hospitable shores? No one here to ask. My thanks to the Liceo Machiavelli for this private visit, and to Gil Cohen, who lends his teaching skills to the English department on a volunteer basis, for arranging it.