The mental asylum of San Servolo,Venice (1860–1978): plots, classifications, subjects. Epistemology and history.

In autumn 2006, Professor Mario Galzigna (Department of Historical Studies, Ca’Foscari University, Venice) started a historical epistemological research project at the Archives of the Foundation IRSESC (Social and Cultural Emargination Research and Studies Institute:, formerly seat of the old mental asylum of Venice (which closed on 13 August 1978 after 250 years).

The Foundation’s heritage comprises a very large archive including the following sections: administrative; sanitary; accounting; photographic. In addition, it includes the book collections of the old psychiatric hospitals of San Servolo,San Clemente (feminine section: 1873–1987) and provincial civil Hospital SS.Giovanni e Paolo of Venice (mental hospital section). There is also material relating to San Servolo’s pharmacy. The main aim of the research so far – by means of a systematic examination of a selection of clinical records –
has been the reconstruction of the psychiatric apparatus of San Servolo from 1840 to 1904, in its multiple forms, and the analysis of the network of relations between the asylum and other main institutions, with particular attention to those with political, sanitary and judicial power in the Veneto region of the period.

Now we would like to enlarge the perspective of this research by setting the psychiatric experience of San Servolo into the historical, institutional and scientific European context from the point of view of both psychiatric practice and clinical nosography (evolution in diagnostical approaches; assessment of the influence of European scientifi c production on these practices and theories).
At present, we are looking for European or non-European sponsors and partners and fi nancial support in order to continue our work in a wider, international perspective and context.

For further information, please contact: EGIDIO PRIANI ( and click here.

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