The historical Archive is an integral part of the patrimony of the Guglielmo Marconi Foundation. It distinguishes itself for the recovery, the description and the valorization of the sources relative to the life and work of Guglielmo Marconi, both by acquiring pertinent documentary material, through acquisitions and donations, and by putting on line Marconian sources (inventories and digital documents) in the possession of Italian and foreign cultural institutions.
A first group of documents consisted in the “Papers of Giuseppe Marconi” (part of the Marconi Archive), which, even if no longer at the Marconi Foundation but currently at the Accademia dei Lincei, are meticulously described in the following section as it is the most important Marconian archive present in Italy.
The Marconi Archive, preserved at the Accademia dei Lincei in Rome and supplied with an inventory edited in 1993 by Giovanni Paoloni, is composed of two clearly distinct parts.
The first part (“Papers of Guglielmo Marconi 1931-1937”) was donated in 1973 by Giovanni Battista Marini Bettòlo Marconi, a member of the Accademia dei Lincei, whose adoptive father, Umberto Marconi, was Guglielmo Marconi's most reliable secretary between 1930 and 1937 (changing his last name to Di Marco).
The second part (“Papers of Giuseppe Marconi”, stored in the ex Accademia d'Italia) was tracked down by Giovanni Paoloni in 1993 in a case in the Farnesina, the headquarters of the Accademia d'Italia. In the same year, Paoloni edited the inventory that reveals some significant pieces of information.
It contained eight packages with the label “G. Marconi documents” (G. = Giuseppe, not Guglielmo). The material was subdivided into two groups (A and B): the same subdivision was subsequently maintained; group A is made up of archive material that contains information regarding Guglielmo, while group B is made up of the remaining paternal documentation, including some administrative records relative to Marconi's property which date back to Guglielmo's grandfather, Domenico. According to Paoloni
the person responsible for this rearrangement was Marconi's secretary, Umberto di Marco, presumably following indications given by Guglielmo himself: in fact, although no evidence has been found so far as to why these documents were among the papers of the ex Accademia d'Italia, several clues lead us to conclude that they were left there by the inventor in the years in which he was president of the Accademia, so that they might be rearranged and preserved.
In the light of new documentation, kept in copy at the Marconi Foundation in Pontecchio, these affirmations need to be in part revised.
While the history regarding the first part of the archive is simple, linear and well known, that relative to the second part is decidedly more obscure.
When Paoloni discovered the case of documents, nothing was known about the existence of that material.
A precious typewritten dossier, preserved in the archive of the Marconi Foundation came to our aid. It was entitled “Correspondence relative to the transfer of a case of Marconian documents (1940-1941) from Villa Griffone to the Reale Accademia d'Italia”.
It consists in a collection of photocopied documents, not in chronological order, 94 pages in total, that help to reconstruct the incident that began in the summer of 1940. Guglielmo had passed away three years prior, while in 1938 the Marconi Foundation had been established, and its first president was Luigi Federzoni.
On July 3rd 1940 the superintendent Salerno made a visit to Duilio Moleterni's antique shop in Casalecchio di Reno and came to discover an assortment of papers, documents, printed material, paintings, portraits and furniture «of Marconian origin» once property of the inhabitants of Villa Griffone as well as of other people: the lawyer Mario Jacchia (the attorney of the Marconi heirs), Enrico Franceschini of Pontecchio and Moleterni himself. A peremptory order was issued on behalf of the Bibliographic and artistic Superintendence and successive contacts and letters were exchanged which naturally saw the involvement of the Marconi Foundation.
The bibliographic Superintendence made an accurate account of the recovered documentation, in which «all of the material examined has been divided into two sections».
This is the content inside the cases:
- Printed books and magazines, predominantly English, most about fifty years old and of no particular interest;
- A notable number of accounting records relative to commercial and industrial business management of the Marconi House (1860-1864) including property administration and family funds (1871-1896) as well as daily expenses;
- Many business letters sent to Luigi Marconi (1861-1863), numerous others addressed to Giuseppe Marconi, Guglielmo's father, in part business, in part familial. Among the latter there are many sent by his wife Annetta from England circa 1870, from the winter and summer residences in Florence, Livorno, Poretta, etc. from 1876 to 1890, and again from England around 1900.
- A few notebooks and scraps of papers with drawings of geometrical shapes or chemistry and physics notes, which most likely were done by Guglielmo Marconi at a young age (I say most likely because they could also belong to his older brother Alfonso), some family portraits and a few rare papers or documents that make indirect reference to Marconi's discoveries.
Federzoni requested the authorization of the Superintendent to pick up at the same antique shop «what has been referred to as mementos and documents» which, at the time, were still in Casalecchio.
Thus, in a letter dated November 4th, 1940, Federzoni sums up the situation:
I have defined, I think in the best terms possible, considering the situation, the controversy with Mr. Moleterni. There was sufficient evidence to prove that the latter only sold the letter sent from Marconi to his father, that I was able to recover as a gracious donation of the buyer. In agreement with Mr. Ducati, I gave instructions to the Bibliographic Superintendent to consign the other papers presently subjected to constraint to the Foundation, and thus to the same Mr. Ducati. The truth is that the ransacking of the papers stored in the villa in Pontecchio occurred before the apparition of Moleterni and the establishment of the Foundation; and most likely, even before the death of the same Marconi.
It was then decided to send the above-mentioned documents and mementos to Rome so that Marconi's relatives could see the material and take back that which was exclusively personal and familiar. Everything arrived in Rome in January 1941: the case was addressed to Luigi Federzoni at the Accademia d'Italia.
On February 5th of the same year, «at 4 p.m., in a hall of the Reale Accademia d'Italia (Lungotevere Farnesina, 10, Rome)», «with the scope of opening a case sent from the Bologna Bibliographic Superintendence», the following people reunited: Domenico Fava (Bibliographic Superintendent entrusted by the Ministry of National Education), the lawyer Giuseppe Fuschini (representing the marquises Giulio, Degna and Gioia Marconi), the lawyer Serafino Cerulli (representing the marquise Maria Cristina Marconi) and Achille Mantovani (of the Reale Accademia d’Italia, representing the Marconi Foundation).
The minutes from the meeting state the following:
Inside the case there were five boxes and a package containing papers, prints and documents belonging to the late Guglielmo Marconi, coming from his Villa in Pontecchio in the municipal district of Sasso Marconi. After a brief examination of the contents, the five boxes and the package were once again placed inside the case, and the case was closed and sealed. The people present agreed that the examination of the papers and documents should proceed, in their presence, in successive days, to be determined.
The Account of de Januario is an extremely accurate description of the second part of the Marconi Archive (“Papers of Giuseppe Marconi: Storage ex Accademia d'Italia; box 37-49”).
The papers were subdivided into two groups: A and B. The first contained “Documents of interest for the Foundation Marconi”, the second “Documents relative to arguments that do not hold interest for the Marconi Foundation”.
In more detail:
- File 1 Letters, notes and other writings by Guglielmo Marconi, his report cards etc.
- File 2 Letters by Guglielmo Marconi's family members with details regarding his life and his work up until 1903
- File 3 Newspapers, magazines, various publications containing references to experiments conducted by Guglielmo Marconi
- File 4 Letters by celebrities and various Institutions, from relatives and friends of Marconi's family
- File 5 Expenses sustained by Giuseppe Marconi for his son's (Guglielmo) experiments and for his economic support in England between 1896-97 – Buying and selling of shares of the Marconi-Wireless Company – Documents that reveal some aspects of Marconi's civilian and private life as well as his character
- File 6 Facts relative to Villa Griffone
- File 7 Photographs of Guglielmo Marconi and other family members
Administrative and accounting of the domestic and agricultural companies
- Legal certificates
- Correspondence from various time periods
- Newspapers, magazines, train schedules, shipping lines, company addresses, publications
With this very detailed Account, that contains the document summary for the most part of the papers, the documentation ends.
All of that Marconian documentation, at the time property of the Marconi Foundation, was never returned, and remained for nearly fifty years in the basement of the Accademia d'Italia, until Paoloni's discovery in 1993.
The reorganization, inventory revaluation and valorization of the Foundation's Historical Archive (from 1938 to 1981) is being planned. It would include documents that make reference to the current administration as well as accounts of relationships established with institutions and scholars with the scope of promoting and encouraging research relative to radio-communication.
Recently, it was possible to complete the inventory revaluation of the Trumpy fund, acquired thanks to the donation made by the heirs: it consists in historical material of notable interest, accounts of work carried out with Marconi and at the Marconi Officine (assembly plants) from both Rodolfo Trumpy and his son Walter.
The Paresce fund was also recently acquired, made up of the sole series “Correspondence” (in copy).
Furthermore, a research project is in progress which establishes contacts with italian and foreign archives, but also with private collections that are willing to collaborate, with the scope of identifying the greatest quantity possible of Marconian material: with this documentation the Guglielmo Marconi Foundation commits itself to carrying out a census followed by a presentation on its website, with the objective of avoiding excessive dispersion and fragmentation of the sources of information.
The first database, relative to the inventory of the main funds of the Oxford Marconi Archives (preserved in the Bodleian Library), will shortly be made available on the portal “A city for archives”.