The National Central Library of Florence is part of the Ministry of Culture, is the most important Italian library, whose antique collections hold the largest number of ancient codices and manuscripts by all the most important authors of Italian literature, and exactly 25.297 manuscripts, 4.089 incunabula, 29.123 editions of the Sixteenth century, 70.425 prints and more than 1.000.000 autographs
The National Central Library of Florence is undoubtedly a unicum for the history of culture, due to the importance of its both ancient and modern printed and manuscripts collections, as well as due to the most complete periodicals collections in Italy. The Library is also the custodian of the most complete Italian collection of Artist’s Books of the Twentieth Century; it is furthermore important for its seat, built between 1911 and 1935 by architect Cesare Bazzani, as well as for the artistic heritage that it guards.
In 1865, a few years after the Unification of Italy, the Florentine Library, born in 1714, from the private library of Antonio Magliabechi, one of the most famous scholars of the eighteenth Century, joined the rich Palatine Library (constituted by Ferdinando III of Lorraine and continued by his successor Leopold II) and became, by Royal Decree, the National Library of Florence. As a national library, the National Central Library of Florence has been, since its establishment, the Book National Archive, whose task is, as in every other Country, to preserve the cultural heritage of the nation for future generations. For such a purpose, since the 19th century, the Library has been receiving, thanks to the legal deposit law, a copy of everything that is published in Italy. The delivery discipline as regards the mandatory copies was recently totally modified entrusting the National Central Library of Florence (BNCF) even with the task of preserving the digital resources for the posterity, by now becoming a fundamental means of knowledge. As concerns the modern heritage, the Library’s collections include 8.887.694 among monographs and printed brochures, 404.256 titles of periodicals of which 8.381 ongoing (3.004.582 units) and the shelves of the book deposits cover at the moment 136 linear Km, with an annual increase of more than 1 and half linear km.
As for the protection of the collections and works of art, the BNCF, first among the Italian libraries, wrote a specific emergency plan for the salvage of the collections thanks to which the various types of disaster (water, fire, explosion) that could affect the Institute can be better addressed, as, for example, a new flood of the Arno (river in front of which the Library was built and that, as is known, flooded in 1966 with terrible damage to the bibliographical, historical and artistic heritage well known to the entire international community). Rescue priorities were then established, using shorter exodus routes for transporting materials to safe places, such as higher floors and the Brunelleschi’s Cloister which the Library shares with the Basilica of Santa Croce. The link to the Collections Rescue Plan is also visible on the Library homepage: https://www.bncf.firenze.sbn.it/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/PIANO_EMERGENZA_BNCF_2018_WEB_compressed.pdf
In agreement with territorial Authorities, periodic drills have been put in place to train teams involved in saving the collections, in order to use, in a functional and efficient way, the notice time that the Civil Defense is able to provide before the occurrence of a flood, to save the material according to the established priorities. The Plan also includes, of course, the actions to be taken in case of a disaster due to the malfunctioning of hydraulic and electrical systems inside the building (pipe breaks, etc.), fires, earthquakes or explosions. Moreover, in the event that an emergency really takes place, the Emergency Plan lists the actions to be taken for drying and recovering the affected material. Still on the subject of the safety of both the building that houses the library and its collections, as a further demonstration of the attention dedicated to the protection of the Institute as a whole, the Library, together with the University of Florence and the neighbouring Basilica of Santa Croce, is currently running a research project in order to develop: a survey of the drainage system of the buildings; an information system and hydraulic model of the urban drainage system; an implementation of a continuous monitoring system of hydrological and hydraulic quantities; a definition of the strategies of prevention of the risk of urban floods. The survey will apply new geophysical technologies being tested in an urban environment, integrated with the data already available, it will allow to define the existing drainage system, identifying critical points and “forgotten” infrastructures, useful for hydraulic protection purposes. As what concerns the Safecult project the National Central Library will support both the Design and development of course materials and the European guidelines for the management of risks and emergencies for written cultural heritage. It will also support the Safecult national living – lab and the Safecult Capacity building multiplier event.