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Per aspera ad astra

Cartographic exhibition
Per aspera ad astra

Cartographic exhibition on the 150th anniversary of the Italian Military Geographic Institute

Per Aspera ad astra

Construction of the geometric model of the Italian territory

Cartographic exhibition on the 150th anniversary of the Italian Military Geographic Institute

curated by Andrea Cantile

Florence, Galleria delle Carrozze, Via Camillo Cavour, 5

October 11th – November 06th 2022


Opening hours 10 a.m – 5 p.m

The exhibition, divided into five thematic sections, is an ideal journey through a selection of maps, documents and instruments, which marked three revolutionary moments in the history of official Italian cartography. During this four-centuries journey, many difficulties have been overcome, while looking at the stars.

Visitors can see the cartographic production of that time and easily understand the outcomes of the "Geometric Revolution," the "Photogrammetric Revolution" and the "Digital Revolution" in the production of Italian maps.

The first section, entitled The Shape of Italy from the Seventeenth Century to the Present, is a kind of prologue, outlining with a few, significant maps the general narrative of the entire exhibition, showing the great difference existing between the early, approximate images of the Italian region, still divided into its so-called "handkerchief states," and those derived from the rigorous geometric constructions of the following centuries.

The second section, entitled The Geometric Revolution in the Italian States before Unification, collects a selection of topographic maps, produced from the 18th century, up to the eve of Italian unification.  Thanks to these maps, perfect products of science and art, it is possible to understand the effects of the "Geometric Revolution" that enabled the various Italian states, existing before the Italian unification, to produce their topographic maps, based on prior operations of geometric measuring of the territory. Although the big differences in form and content, these maps offer concrete evidence of the precious scientific and documentary legacy, collected by the first Italian post-unification cartographic body. By means of this legacy, the first official image of united Italy was realized.

The third section, entitled The Construction of the Geometric Image of the Italian Territories, is divided into four subsections, showing, with appropriate technological tools and archive document reproductions, the complex process of constructing the first, monumental cartographic representation of the Italian territory, known as the Great Topographic Map of the Kingdom of Italy, at scale 1:100,000.

In the first two subsections are displayed the operational procedures implemented for the geometric measuring of the territory, through complex planimetric and altimetric operations; while in the next two subsections are illustrated the operations related to detailed topographic surveying, drawing, engraving and printing carried out in order to realized the first official maps of the Italian State. They are here displayed in their different publishing formats, starting from the second half of the 19th century.

In the fourth section, entitled The Photogrammetric Revolution, is displayed the second revolutionary moment in the history of cartography, which slowly led to the introduction of photography into systematic land surveys. In particular, this section shows the main stages of the development of photography for documenting, surveying and intelligence purposes, from ground or aerial platform. Visitors have the opportunity to see a precious camera for telephotography, one of the first photo-theodolites, the first aerial photogrammetric camera built in the IGMI's mechanical workshops and the first Italian optical-mechanical aerial photogrammetric restitutor, belonging to the collections of the Museo Storico della Cartogafia Italiana (MUSCI). Two stations for direct observation of stereoscopic images from airplanes also allow visitors to understand how the surveyors were able to observe terrain’s elevation changes, starting from two flat images of the territory.

The fifth section, entitled The “Digital Revolution”: from satellites to paper not only... "of paper," shows the results of the third cartographic revolution in cartography, in other words, paper was no longer "of paper," but became immaterial, thanks to the introduction of digital technologies. This section displays images of the advent of satellite, positioning and remote sensing technologies, the birth and development of geographic databases, until the so-called “on-demand” or “one click” maps, that symbolically show how fast a topographic map can be set up when an accurate, reliable and up-to-date geographic database is available.