This year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of explorer, musicologist, geographer, ethnographer, collectionist and Italian patriot Giovanni Miani (1810 – 1872).
Miani led a peripatetic life. He travelled through Europe’s capitals and universities developing his cultural and scientific interests and was an early exponent of musicology. Miani was imprisoned for taking part in the Revolution of 1848 and then exiled. He is famous for leading early expeditions in search for the source of the Nile in 1859 and 1861 during which he amassed 1800 artifacts: weapons, musical instruments and everyday utensils of various ethnic groups along his way. Miani bestowed these on the city of Venice.
The Library of the Museum houses Miani’s diaries and archives including maps which were first published in 1865. Miani endeavoured to draft a Universal Encyclopedia of World Music on his expeditions up the Nile.
During a time of European rivalry over new territories in uncharted sub-Saharan Africa Miani found patronage from Napoleon III. Despite the terrible hardships and disease, unreliable and dangerous
companions, he garnered items and information of exceptional scientific and ethnographic value.
Perhaps the most famous is the Mummy Priestess of Crocodiles, but also exquisitely crafted arms, musical instruments, clothing and everyday items. Miani gave detailed descriptions about their design and how people used them. His diaries describe the musical instruments and their sounds, how they are played and when.