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Our History


merz-repsold telescope original location in Brera Astronomical Observatory, MilanThe activity started tentatively with a not-for-profit partnership among two newly retired technicians/engineers and the Institute of Physics - Section of the History of Physics, University of Milan - in January 1987 as part of a project to enhance and make accessible to scholars the historical heritage of the Astronomical Observatory of Brera (hereafter we will call it OAdi B).

In the years that followed, through professional experience, gained in the course of their work at medium and large industries, but especially thanks to their tenacious dedication to the study of ancient documents, the first group of volunteers, to which was added a third person, they could face the first restoration of the collection of ancient astronomical instruments and meteorological history of the scientific establishment in  Milan (OAdi B).

The most important work of this first phase was the restoration of the reflecting telescope of Giovan Battista Amici, built in Modena in 1811.

This intervention can be considered the first true restoration, albeit conservative, created by the founders  of the partnership. It was started in September 1995 and ended in the spring next year.

After this test, we can say that the foundations were laid for future work more challenging.

The subsequent intervention has focused on the restoration of the peculiar  long case  astronomical pendulum of the famous watchmaker in Milan GD Alberti, (built 1819).

Also this work was very complex because the settings were quite worn for wear and the machine, sensitive to the slightest vibration, would not tolerate even the most microscopic tolerance.

There followed various other astronomical instruments of medium size.

In January of 1987 began  a much more demanding project  than previous versions, a sort of graduation exam.

The aim was the functional restoration of the refracting telescope built by Georg Merz, Monaco of Bavaria, from 1863-1864, ordered by the first unified Italian government.

With this telescope the astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli made the famous studies on Mars in the period from 1873 to 1877.

This was a "piece" of significant historical importance, not only for Italian astronomy but of international recognition.

The state of conservation of the instrument were disastrous, suffice it to say that there were 37 missing pieces, some of which of vital importance, and many others were deformed.

The difficult task was completed successfully in December 1998 after two years of intense work, study and historical research.

The presentation to the academic authorities and the press took place in the same month. The reviews were of unanimous consent.

Meanwhile, other volunteers joined the first group, so the decision was made to establish the 'Arass-Brera (Association for the Restoration of historic scientific instruments - NPO) in May 1998.

Worthy of note is the restoration work, conducted in 1999, of the magnetometer built by Meyerstein in 1835 in Göttingen. Exemplary of significant historical value because it is the only one left in the world of the 80 built to a design by K. F. Gauss, to perform a big geomagnetic surveys campaign  in 80 points, appropriately selected in different parts of the Earth, in order to build the mapping of the Earth's magnetic field.

Deserve a mention even pendulums, astronomical regulator instruments on display in the same gallery of OAdi B. They were restored and made operational since June of 1997, continued to operate normally and continue to function under the constant supervision and regular maintenance performed by ARASS Brera members.

Below is a list of clients in chronological order:

  • University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
  • Institute of Physics, University of Genoa
  • Liceo Parini in Milan
  • Cesare Beccaria High School  of Milan
  • the Ministry of Agriculture in Rome
  • the Superintendency of Artistic and Historical Heritage of Milan
  • the Superintendency of Architectural Heritage and Nature of Milan
  • University of Bologna
  • Astronomical Observatory of Trieste
  • the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Milan
  • Giovanni Berchet High School in Milan
  • the National Library of Milan Braidense
  • High School Bagatta Desenzano del Garda
  • Liceo Virgilio Milan

and finally the city of Padua for the restoration of the oldest clock tower designed and built in continental Europe in 1335 by Jacopo Dondi.

For each of these bodies has been carried out a very challenging professional, cultural, historical, scientific and organizational task.

Explaining the details and complexity for each of the  of the interventions would be a major commitment. But for one particular project we can not hold back from telling his story because it coincides with a period of history of our city.

It is the ancient public clock of the tower of Brera, built in 1743-44. This clock was the reference "clock signal" during the '800 for the entire city of Milan and Lombardy, after the Austrian reform of the measurement of time introduced in May 1786, still in use today.

He made his honorable service until November 1955 when the last mechanical clock in OAdi B retired.

Shortly after the clock stopped, by lack of support, it remained forgotten for almost fifty years.

In all this time it had been lost, we can say, his historical memory, and also there was a serious   risk of physical dispersion.

But the archival documents were there to witness, with all their authority, its important past.

The first visits, to study the feasibility of a restoration, started back in February 1998. Soon it was realized that new location of the mechanism presented significant logistical problems.

It was necessary to develop a functional restoration project compatible with the many needs which had to be taken into account: technical, structural, environmental, historical and economic.

This project took three years of study and historical research in the archives of the State of Milan, the same OAdi B., Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan and Lombardy Institute of Arts and Letters.

We can say, with the knowledge that comes from experience, that for this project, we made a bet with ourselves.

Only with great determination and the perseverance of those who never give up it was possible to reach a positive conclusion of such a difficult restoration.

Above all, we were encouraged by the awareness of the extraordinary historical importance of the object. The challenge was studying and implementing solutions for every problem the most ingenious, original but also respectful of the historical artifact.

It is mentioned here only to give an idea, albeit not as comprehensive as well the commitment of members is complex dell'ARASS-Brera.

This example has been mentioned here only to give an idea, albeit not comprehensive, of the complex commitment undertaken by the members  of ARASS.