Located on Colle del Salvatore on the western side of Vesuvius, the Vesuvius Observatory houses a precious collection dating back to the 1500s
Its unique story was collected by the researchers of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) in the article “The Museum of the Vesuvius Observatory: inviting the public to explore the geoheritage of the world's first volcano observatory” published in the prestigious international scientific journal 'Bulletin of Volcanology'.
The Vesuvius Observatory was founded in 1841 at the behest of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, King of the Two Sicilies. While the modern nucleus of research and monitoring moved to the city of Naples over 40 years ago, the ancient Vesuvius building houses a museum where collections of scientific, cultural and artistic interest dating back to the early 1800s are exhibited.
Scientific instruments, rocks and minerals, ancient books (some of which date back to the 1500s), old papers and geological models form the heart of the collection and are flanked by photos and videos of historic eruptions of Vesuvius, gouaches from the 1700s, as well as recordings on paper of seismic activity from 1915 to 1970, as well as the apparatus itself for smoking paper.
The Vesuvius Observatory complex is developed on Colle del Salvatore and consists of two main buildings: the main building from 1841, with an adjoining historic garden, and a modern structure built in the 70s for research and monitoring activities of that time.
A particularity of the historic building is the presence of two sundials which indicate solar time and the months of the year and the large terraces with panoramic views of the Gulf of Naples which were used for external observations of volcanic phenomena.
At the behest of Ferdinand II of Bourbon, art accompanies scientific activity in the rooms of the Observatory: the decorations on the ceilings of the rooms represent Minerva, goddess of science, who crowns Prometheus, Aeolus who commands the winds and Vulcan, god of fire , with its Forge. The art present here is probably an allegorical homage to the benevolence of the Bourbon king towards the Arts and Sciences of the Earth.
The pioneering scientific instruments belonging to the Vesuvius Observatory collection represent the scientific progress made between the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries in the field of volcano monitoring. The collection includes seismological, magnetic, geodetic, geochemical and meteorological instruments used for the surveillance of Vesuvius.
The seismographs designed by Luigi Palmieri, Ascanio Filomarino, Emil Johann Wiechert, Guido Alfani and Giovanni Agamemnone are the heart of a unique collection in the world.
Visitors can discover this heritage through permanent exhibitions and a multimedia itinerary that traces the history of Vesuvius and the origin of volcanic monitoring.
The museum is located within the protected area of the Vesuvius National Park, established in 1995. The park's network of trails allows visitors to enjoy the geodiversity of Somma-Vesuvius, whose activity has been intertwined with that of humans from the Neolithic to modern times, as evidenced by numerous important archaeological sites around the volcano, including the most famous Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Link to the study:
Citation: Di Vito, MA, Sparice, D., de Vita, S. et al. The Museum of the Vesuvius Observatory: inviting the public to explore the geoheritage of the world's first volcano observatory. Bull Volcanol 85, 45 (2023).
The Vesuvius Observatory Museum described in an article in an international scientific journal:
Vesuvian Observatory web page:
Museum web page:
picture 1 - Construction of the Vesuvius Observatory on the Salvatore hill (about 1843, artist unknown). The observatory is located between Vesuvius (in the background) and a church with an adjoining hermitage (foreground) which predate the observatory.
Photo - The facade of the historic Vesuvius Observatory building. Note the sundials and the stone slab on the facade of the top floor. The stone slab bears an inscription recalling the foundation of the observatory at the behest of King Ferdinand II of Bourbon.
picture 2 - Photographic plate showing Alessandro Malladra, Mercalli's assistant at the time, as he descends into the crater of Vesuvius to carry out sampling and measurements (May 14, 1912).
picture 3 - The Palmieri seismograph: a) the detection apparatus, b) the recording apparatus and c) the portable version of the seismograph transported by mules during the ascent to the crater of Vesuvius (1891).
picture 4 – Representation of Vesuvius.