“Greenwich on the river Tagus”: Reflections on the scientific, cultural and historical significance of Ajuda, the Astronomical Observatory of Lisbon

Steven de Clercq,

Sofia Talas,

Sébastien Soubiran,

Reet Mägi,

Panu Nykänen


„Greenwich nad rzeką Tagus”: refleksje nad naukowym, kulturowym i historycznym znaczeniem Ajudy, Astronomicznym Obserwatorium Lizbony

Artykuł opisuje przypadek Obserwatorium Astronomicznego w Lizbonie, nazywanego popularnie Ajuda, oraz możliwości zaadaptowania go jako muzeum. Zważywszy, że budynek, wnętrza i instrumenty pozostają na swoich miejscach – podobnie jak biblioteka – nienaruszone, Ajuda pozostaje najlepiej zachowanym obserwatorium z końca XIX wieku w Europie i jako takie nabiera wielkiego międzynarodowego znaczenia. Zachowanie i przekształcenie Ajudy w muzeum może iść w parze pod warunkiem pełnego respektowania autentyczności jego przestrzeni. To wymaga nowego muzeologicznego ujęcia, biorącego całość jako punkt wyjścia do narracji pokazującej nie tylko proces badań astronomicznych, lecz także sytuującej Ajudę w szerszym ówczesnym intelektualnym, kulturowym i socjologicznym kontekście.


“Greenwich on the river Tagus”: Reflections on the scientific, cultural and historical significance of Ajuda, the Astronomical Observatory of Lisbon

The University of Lisbon is currently reflecting on how the Observatório Astronómico de Lisboa [the Astronomical Observatory of Lisbon], located at the Tapada da Ajuda and which we will here simply designate by Ajuda Observatory, can be preserved for the future. The reflection encompasses pondering if a museological function can contribute to the preservation goal and, consequently, which museological approach delivers the best and most sustainable contribution1. Gradually, as almost all nineteenth century observatories in Europe ceased to be used for precise astronomical observations due to a variety of reasons, many were turned into offices for research and teaching activities no longer directly connected with instruments on site, thus loosing their original structure, character and function. Some were altogether abandoned or turned into a museum (e.g. the Observatories of Greenwich and Marseille). Ajuda, one of the two nineteenth century observatories owned by the University of Lisbon, stands out as a unique outstanding example of an observatory that has remained almost entirely unaltered: it has maintained the original setting up of a nineteenth-century research laboratory, with the instrumentation in situ and in working condition almost ready to resume its activity. Moreover, the site of the Observatory – including the library – remains in use by astronomers. This exceptional situation offers the context to move one step beyond the evident choice of converting Ajuda into a traditional museum of astronomy. This choice would not only disturb its authenticity and thus quality, but would also be a missed opportunity. In this paper, we argue that the principal element in musealization should be to bring the authentic spaces to life and to regard the ensemble as starting point. This implies a step further in scale from object to space, allowing a story-telling approach to astronomy, as well as to science as part of society and to the ways the ensemble reflects the intellectual, sociological, political and cultural environment, both nationally and internationally. This amounts to an ambitious and challenging concept, requiring a new museological perspective, as well as an interdisciplinary team. It is also a delicate process as it by definition demands that the space remains as it is: undisturbed, in situ.

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Pierwotną formą czasopisma jest wersja elektroniczna.