The Kircherian Museum, thus named after its first curator, the Jesuit Father Athanasius Kircher, was an encyclopedic collection established at the Roman College in 1651 as a requisite for receiving the legacy bequeathed by the patrician Alfonso Donnino. The museum became relatively famous in its time  and is often mentioned in current literature as an example of Early Modern Wunderkammer or Curiosity Cabinet.
Donnino’s endowment consisted of his personal galleria which was said to have occupied five large rooms in the Palazzo dei Conservatori at Campidoglio in Rome. According to the donation documents, it included “statue, mascheroni, idoli, quadri, armi, pitture, tavole di marmo e di altra materia preziosa, vasi di vetro e cristallo, instrumenti musicali, piatti dipinti, diverse sorti di pietre e fragmenti di antichità”. .
Besides the articles from Donnino’s gallery, the Kircherian Museum incorporated other groups of objects already assembled at the Roman College, most notably a collection of instruments and manuscripts used for the advanced teaching of Mathematics known as musaeum mathematicum, initially organized by the Jesuit Christophorus Clavius, who had been a professor at the institution. By the time of Donnino’s donation, the musaeum mathematicum was under the care of Athanasius Kircher, who had enlarged it with his own inventions and frequently made use of the devices in demonstrations to students, scholars and external visitors. The Kircherian Museum collection was complemented by other items of naturalia and artificialia, either sent by fellow Jesuits, from Europe and abroad, or gifted by patrons and contributors throughout its existence.
An overall picture of the collection can be grasped from the catalogue published in 1678, from the press of Joannes Jansson van Waesberghe in Amsterdam, written by an otherwise unknown Giorgio de Sepi, with the supervision of Kircher himself. The title of the catalogue was Romani Collegii Societatis Jesu Musaeum Celeberrimum and its fully readable on GATE at this link (with full-text search available). An Italian translation was edited by Eugenio Lo Sardo in Il museo del Collegio Romano di Athanasius Kircher (Napoli, 2005). More recently, a facsimile edition accompanied by an English translation was published in 2015 .
After Kircher death in 1680, the curation of the museum was left vacant for almost two decades. Accounts from the period suggest that this resulted in a decline and dispersion of the collection due to the lack of surveillance, maintenance, and organization. In 1698 another Jesuit, Filippo Bonanni, was appointed to take charge of the museum, enlarging the collection and rearranging the objects in a different site at the Roman College. This new conception of the collection was described in the Musaeum Kircherianum, a work by Bonanni printed in 1709.
Later, around 1716, Bonanni also wrote a report to his superiors in which he described all the actions taken in the previous two decades to save and reorganize the museum. The goal of the report was to obtain an annual income for the museum to avoid its decline, as had happened immediately after Kircher death. The transcription of the report, entitled Notizie circa la Galleria del Collegio Romano is also available on GATE at this link.
A number of letters received by Bonanni, APUG 577.III, includes several descriptions of archaeological discoveries in Italy, and donations of finds that were sent to Bonanni to form part of the Colleggio Romano museum collection. For example, in a letter dated 3 December 1731 [109r-109v], Filippo Neri promises to send some ‘ossa di Gigante’, and suggests putting them in a box covered by some Etruscan vases, not to attract attention while going through customs. The Collegio also appears to have facilitated distribution of antiquarian publications. On 27 March 1725, Francesco Ficoroni writes to Bonanni  to order four books, including two copies of Il Tempio Vaticano (Carlo Fontana, 1694) and a copy of Bonanni’s Gabinetto Armonico (1722).
From the moment of the suppression of the Jesuit Society in 1773 the collection of the Kircherian Museum went through drastic transformation. After 1870, it was eventually seized by the Italian State, which incorporated different groups of objects into newly created, specialized museums, such as the National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography organized by Luigi Pigorini in 1876. A group of scientific objects then known as the “Kircherian Physics Cabinet” was donated to the Liceo Ennio Quirino Visconti (located to this day in the building previously occupied by the Roman College), carrying the name of Kircherian Museum.
Manuscript APUG 35 contains some records of the management of the museum in the 19th century. In A folder there is a copy of an Apostolic Brief issued by Clement XI in 1702 confirming the privileges of the College and the Museum. I folder records a request made by the Jesuit Provincial in 1839 for the regular submission of the Museum’s accounts. Also includes a list of accessions to the museum dated 18 May 1895, as well as a number of bills for works and furnishing in the museum, mainly during the 1850s and 1860s.
APUG 35 also contains an undated catalogue of the Museum, organised by class of material, presently consisting of unbound sheets held in different folders: lists minerals; lists statuary, lamps and candelabra; lists various classes of inscriptions; numismatic collections; lists classical inscriptions; brick and pottery stamps; and mainly graffiti.
More information about the Kircherian Museum can be discovered looking at the Bibliographia Kircheriana, where Kircherian Museum is a keyword assigned to the following entries:
|Entry ID||Author||Title||Year||Language||Bibliographic level|
|AHSI 104 727||Rivosecchi, Valerio||Esotismo in Roma barocca. Studi sul Padre Kircher||1982||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0010||Findlen, Paula||Possessing nature : Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy||1994||eng||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0024||Garrucci, Raffaele||Origini e vicende del Museo Kircheriano dal 1651 al 1773||1879||ita||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0030||Secchi, Giampietro (S.I.)||Campione d'antica bilibra romana in piombo conservato nel Museo Kircheriano: con greca inscrizione inedita||1835||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0032||Marchi, Giuseppe||La cista atletica del Museo Kircheriano||1848||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0035||De Ruggiero, Ettore||Guida del Museo Kircheriano||1879||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0037||Marchi, Giuseppe|
|L'aes grave del Museo Kircheriano, ovvero, Le monete primitive dei popoli dell'Italia media, ordinate e descritte, aggiuntovi un ragionamento per tentarne l'illustrazione||1839||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0049||Findlen, Paula||Scientific spectacle in Baroque Rome: Athanasius Kircher and the Roman College Museum||2003||eng||Book chapter|
|AKC Bibliography 0053||Westerhoff, Jan C.||A World of Signs: Baroque Pansemioticism, the Polyhistor and the Early Modern Wunderkammer||2001||eng||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0062||Leinkauf, Thomas||Mundus combinatus und ars combinatoria als geistesgeschichtlicher Hintergrund des Museum Kircherianum in Rom||1994||ger||Book chapter|
|AKC Bibliography 0067||Seipel, Wilfried (ed.)||Ägyptomanie. Europäische Ägypten Imagination von der Antike bis heute. Schriften des Kunsthistorischen Museums Vol. 3 - Symposium Wien, Kunsthistorisches Museum, 30. und 31. Oktober 1994||2000||ger||Conference proceedings|
|AKC Bibliography 0068||Gilly, Carlos||Ermetismo per turisti, ovvero come fare di Ermete un pezzo da museo: Athanasius Kircher||2002||ita|
|Exhibition catalogue contribution|
|AKC Bibliography 0069||Avellino, Francesco Maria||Dell'aes grave del Museo kircheriano: articoli due||1839||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0070||Bartola, Alberto||Alle origini del Museo del Collegio Romano: documenti e testimonianze||2004||ita||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0072||Asmussen, Tina|
|Schleier des Wissens. Athanasius Kirchers Strategien der Sichtbarmachung in Stadt, Museum und Buch||2011||ger||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0082||Lafaye, G.||Le Musée Kircher||1879||fre||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0088||Battarra, Giovanni Antonio||Rerum naturalium historia nempe quadrupedum insectorum piscium variorumque marinorum corporum fossilium plantarum exoticarum ac præsertim testaceorum existentium in Museo Kircheriano edita iam a P. Philippo Bonannio nunc vero nova methodo distributa notis illustrata in tabulis reformata novisque observationibus locupletata a Iohanne Antonio Battarra Ariminensi||1773-1782||lat||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0093||Contucci, Contuccio||Musaei Kircheriani aerea notis illustrata||1763-1765||lat||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0100||De Ruggiero, Ettore||Catalogo del Museo Kircheriano||1878||ita||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0106||Findlen, Paula,||Science, History, and Erudition: Athanasius Kircher's museum et the Collegio Romano||2001||eng||Exhibition catalogue contribution|
|AKC Bibliography 0113||Mayer-Deutsch, Angela||Das Musaeum Kircherianum. Kontemplative Momente, historische Rekonstruktion, Bildrhetorik||2010||ger||Monography|
|AKC Bibliography 0397||Hunter, Michael||John Ray in Italy: lost manuscripts rediscovered||2014||eng||Paper in journal|
|AKC Bibliography 0399||Baronio|
|Descrizione di Roma moderna, formata nuovamente ...||1697||ita||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0400||Bellori, Giovanni Pietro||Nota delli Musei, Librerie, Galerie & ornamenti di Statue, e Pitture, ne’ Palazzi, nelle Case, e ne’ Giardini di Roma||1664||ita||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0401||Evelyn, John||The diary of John Evelyn||1901||eng|
|AKC Bibliography 0402||Misson, Maximilian||Nouveau voyage d'Italie, avec un memoire contenant des avis utiles a ceux qui voudront faire le mesme voyage||1702||fre||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0403||Piazza, Carlo Bartolomeo||Eusebologion. Euseuologio romano, ouero Delle opere pie di Roma, accresciuto, & ampliato secondo lo stato presente. Con due trattati delle accademie, e librerie celebri di Roma ...||1698||ita||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0404||Priorat, Galeazzo Gualdo||Historia della sacra real maestà di Christina Alessandra regina di Suetia, &c||1656||ita||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0405||Spon, Jacob|
|Voyage d'Italie, de Dalmatie, de Grece et du Levant fait aux annies 1675 & 1676 ...||1678||fre||Printed (pre-1830)|
|AKC Bibliography 0406||Mochizuki, Mia M.||Connected Worlds—The World, the Worldly, and the Otherworldly: An Introduction||2018||eng||Book chapter|
- AKC Bibliography 0070
- Mentions to Athanasius Kircher and his museum can be found in several published guides to Rome, travel journals and other visit accounts. Some examples are: Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0399; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0400 ; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0401; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0402; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0403; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0404; Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0405
- This accessment can be traced back, in most cases, to the fundamental work by Julius von Schlosser, Bibliography:AKC Bibliography 0195
- Bibliography:AHSI_150_1057 , p. 16.
- APUG, Ms. 35 VII c, c. 2r (Link to transcription)
- Bibliography:AHSI 156 665 , p.240.
- Alfonso Donnino lascia in eredità ai Gesuiti del Collegio Romano la sua collezione antiquaria e chiede di essere tumulato nella chiesa di S. Ignazio. 07/may/1651. In: AKC Bibliography 0070, p. 324.
- Romani Collegii Societatis Jesu Musaeum celeberrimum on Internet Archive.
- The celebrated Museum of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus : a facsimile of the 1678 Amsterdam edition of Giorgio de Sepi's description of Athanasius Kircher's Museum "Musæum celeberrimum Collegii Romani Societatis Jesu". Translation by Anastasi Callinicos and Daniel Höhr; annotations by Jane Stevenson; editions and afterword by Peter Davidson. Published by St Omers Press, Stonyhurst and Saint Joseph's University Press, Philadelphia.