Biblioteca Braidense
Working with History

Image © Emilio Scoti

Milan, Italy


Biblioteca Braidense (Braidense National Library) is part of the beautiful Palazzo di Brera, a Milan landmark built by the Jesuits in the 17th century. The Palazzo is a true hub of science and culture: in addition to the library it is also home to the Brera Art Gallery and Academy of Fine Arts, an astronomical observatory, botanical gardens, and the Lombard Institute of Science and Letters. Since 2003, it has also hosted the historical records of the Ricordi classical music publishing company.

Created as a public library in 1770 by the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, Biblioteca Braidense has steadily grown to be one of the largest of its kind in Italy – in fact it now enjoys National Library status.

Among its extensive holdings are the collections of Count Carlo Pertusati, poet Alessandro Manzoni, the Collegio Braidense, and the Jesuit houses of San Fedele and San Girolamo. The library has also acquired the photographic collection of Italian artist Emilio Sommariva, which had miraculously survived bombing in the Second World War.

Image © Emilio Scoti

Goppion’s recent work in the library’s main hall is a retrofitting project: adding a vitrine to a lecturn and upgrading six large antique showcases. The showcase furniture, dating from the late 1800s–early 1900s, has now been equipped with Peltier cell active climate control, combined with silica gel for passive climate control.

State-of-the-art relative humidity stabilization devices were fitted, which are linked to a card that transmits an alert via telephone if a temperature anomaly should occur.Additionally, we replaced the increasingly fragile existing glass with tough new anti-reflective sheets, plus adding internal PVB and dimmable lighting for superior control of lux level.

The biggest challenge was combining the fragile, historically valuable period furniture with the latest applications and technology for preventive conservation. The intervention had to be non-invasive, and completely invisible to visitors.

Image © Emilio Scoti