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Fireside Chat ‘Guglielmo Marconi’s Magnetic Detectors in a Cigar Box: Biography of a Material Myth’

March 16 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm GMT

Presented by Roberta Spada

Magnetic detector in a cigar box on display at Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (IGB-2139) in a 1957 photograph. Archivio Fotografico Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (Milan, Italy), id. 2090, Sala Marconi, “Riproduzione del detector magnetico ideato e costruito da Guglielmo Marconi”, Studio Sella, September 1957.

On display at Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci” in Milan, there is a cigar box, containing two horseshoe magnets, iron wires, and a copper coil. It is one of the reproductions of Guglielmo Marconi’s magnetic detector in a cigar box, donated by Marconi to the Museum founder. In this presentation, I use this object to understand the cigar boxes as the materialisation of a mythological “garage moment”, that is Marconi’s prototyping of the magnetic detector. As many copies and reproductions of an alleged original cigar box are disseminated across Italian media museums, I argue that this evocative object testifies Marconi’s attempt to create and disseminate his own heroic narrative across Italian museums, while he was a member of the fascist hierarchy.

Roberta Spada is a PhD Candidate at Politecnico di Milano and Museo Nazionale Scienza e
Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci ( Her research interests intersect Science and Technology Studies, Museum Studies, and History of Technology, especially media. Her PhD dissertation is about three radio objects from 1930s Italy and the narratives they enacted when curated at MUST.


March 16
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm GMT
Event Category:


On-line, for SIS-members only.


Louise Devoy
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