Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Tour of the Marconi Museum near Bologna

The reason we chose to come to Bologna is to take a tour of the museum at the house where radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi spent his childhood and did his initial experiments with electricity and, most famously, increasing the distance of radio transmission. Villa Griffone is an imposing building.

And here's the view back towards the highway.

To get there we caught the Number 92 blue bus from Bologna, it was €7 return for both of us and the trip took about an hour (but it might be quicker with less traffic).

You can clearly see the house from the bus but there's trees before and after so I'd ask the bus driver to warn you as it approaches. The stop is about two stops past the centre of Borgonouo.

You need to book a tour to visit, it's just €5 per person but it's well worth while. Here's some photos which were highlights for me, but there's lots there besides this.

 Marconi improved on the distance that spark transmitters could be detected in several ways. On the left you can see the equipment with an antenna above and earth plate below.

We now know that these are much too small for the long wavelengths he was probably dealing with but anything was an improvement.

In particular, Marconi improved the "coherer" as detectors were known in those days, he added a little hammer that re-scrambled the metal filings in the tube that helped them to stay highly sensitive to electric fields.

A coherer, a tube of metal filings, used to detect radio frequency signals.

Here's a reproduction of Marconi equipment that would have been using on board a ship. 

A beautiful reproduction spark gap device.

This next one was new to me, it's a detector that uses magnetic hysteresis in iron to detect radio signals. To operate it an iron wire must be drawn through concentric coils, one has the antenna connected to it and the other goes to an amplifier for the detected signal.

There is a fully working spark gap transmitter and receiver setup too, imagine the interference this would cause!

And here is the receiver:

There's lots of interesting gear on show, while not part of the Marconi legacy, this was the first time I'd seen a feld hellschreiber machine in person. (A clever German device that sent a kind of fax of a line of text via simple on-off keying).

Here's an early Motorolla hand held transceiver with my phone next to it.

Interior of the Motorolla transceiver showing the compact valve construction.

This interesting display let us compare different types of rock for their semi-conductor abilities for use as a diode detector.

In one of the pine trees near the house, original antenna wire from a young Marconi was recently recovered.

Marconi's upstairs workshop with the kind of equipment he used. The museum has reproduced many of his instruments and actual working models of experiments for the display.

This is the original of the iron hysteresis detector built in a cigar box by the looks of it.

We were very lucky to have Marconi scholar Barbara Valotti as our guide. She has been researching early Marconi notebooks and helping to re-write the somewhat distorted history of the man who is often portrayed as a lone genius who had flashes of inspiration rather than a methodical self-taught scientist who experimented over many years to develop technologies that could be commercially exploited.

Although we came to Bologna to visit the Marconi Museum, I would add that we've found it a wonderful city to visit. The people are much more friendly than at the tourist locations elsewhere and despite my embarrassing lack of Italian everyone has been helpful and understanding.

I'd highly recommend a visit. My thanks to G4FTC who's web site tipped me off to this great attraction.


Anonymous said...

Good indeed that you have been in Mr Marconi's house where most of this radio business began.


Anonymous said...


I remember seeing one of those magnetic hysteresis detectors years ago in Australia. I can't remember where now, I think it may have been in Victoria.

I always think that it is amazing how they achieved so much with so little in the way of equipment. I guess the bands were very quite then.


panda said...

Great Photos Peter it looks like you are having a great time.
Ian VK2IJ.

Papa Razzi said...

Hi everyone,

I do hope you can help to publicize this unique Marconi event at the world's first wireless factory, thank you.

You will find the You Tube video at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQjIj4VHikQ

The worlds first Wireless and Telegraphy factory at Marconi's Hall Street works in Chelmsford Essex is hailed as the ‘birthplace of radio’

For the first time the building will open its doors the public for three months from Friday March 11, 2016.

Open 11th March to 29th May 2016
Every Sat & Sun. 11.00am – 3.00pm Free Entry

This modest building in Hall Street, Chelmsford, previously a silk factory and latterly Essex Water Company HQ, is in the midst of being converted into flats, but before that work is completed the developers are fulfilling a clause in planning agreement with Chelmsford City Council to open it to the public.

There were hopes that the building, which boasts two Blue Plaques, would become a science hub, with Marconi Science Worx raising awareness, but now the building will be converted into flats.

Chelmsford Civic Society is staging a free exhibition in collaboration with BBC Essex inviting keynote speakers to mark the contribution made by Hall Street.

The world’s first wireless factory was established by Marconi in 1898 and the great man was soon credited for saving lives at sea; but what brought his wireless wonder to worldwide attention was the Titanic disaster in 1912.

It was a direct result of SOS messages saving so many survivors of the stricken Titanic.

The listed building in Hall Street, which is being converted into flats, was where parts of the ‘wi-fi’ equipment which helped save thousands of lives were made, until then Morse code was transmitted via undersea cables.

The free exhibition will be staged by Marconi Science WorX under the auspices of Chelmsford Civic Society and in collaboration with BBC Essex.

It will be open between 11th March to 29th May 2016 as part of an agreement between the developers who want to convert it into flats and Chelmsford City Council to allow the public limited access for three months.

Oyez Oyez - Tony Appleton, the Town Crier, will open the Marconi Exhibition to the public on Friday 11th March at 11.00 and Peter Turrall, Chairman of Marconi Veterans Association will be there to show visitors around until midday and to answer any questions.

Tim Wander, curator, Marconi historian, author – will speak on ‘Hall Street and Marconi: Building the Wireless Age’ on Fri 18th March at 7.00 tickets £5. Tim’s book ‘Marconi’s Hall Street Works: The World’s First Wireless Factory’ is made possible by a grant from Essex Heritage Trust with proceeds from book sales going towards the exhibition.

Dave Monk, BBC Essex well known broadcaster – will speak on The BBC and Me and his life behind the Mic! on Fri 25th March at 7.00 FREE but please book both these talks on Eventbrite.

Ray Clark, broadcaster and author – Friday 1st April at 7.00 – All at Sea – the exciting story of offshore radio - ‘Radio Caroline’ the true story of the boat that rocked. FREE

ADVANCE NOTICE: In May there will be a BIG BBC ESSEX WEEKEND and a double event by Prof Danielle George with permanent static displays throughout March, April and May courtesy of The International Marconi Museum, Bologna, Essex Record Office, Tim Wander and much more.

To book tickets please visit www.chelmsfordcivicsociety.eventbrite.com (I would prefer link direct to Eventbrite url)proceeds from tickets and books will pay for setting up of Exhibition.

www.facebook.com/marconiscienceworx info@chelmsfordcivicsociety.co.uk

Papa Razzi said...

Thanks for the upload - hope you all can find the time to attend this amazing event.