Anytime is better to be little for making great things” (Blanca and Bernie picture)

The content of this short essay refers about the research conducted by two archivists and a part of Technical Secretary of ISMES Models and Structures Experimental Institute, 3 years ago. We want to relate what happened in this Institute as a “land” in which experience and improving solutions in technological and scientific areas, found a fertile development and innovation.

Ismes institute grew up from Polytechnic of Milan on 1951, promoted by Arturo Danusso and Guido Oberti. Its main aim, in that period, was testing on physical models large concrete structures, especially dams. In fact designs and realizations of civil large structures prospected the necessity to achieve an high degree of safety, as said G. Oberti : “ Testing on models represents the natural link between intuition and theory as well as between theory and actual construction. It is the instrument which makes it possible for the engineer to verify, improve upon or confirm that which nature or experience has suggested to him in the design stage.”

This specific experimental approach is a model in itself, like a reading, that drive us to overcoming a too much self autonomous behaviour in all interacting human activities.

How we have just said, the principal Ismes attempt developed engineering abilities by models structures applied to large civil structures in general, such as dams, bridges, airports, highways, energy systems, shells and complex structures building in seismic areas: churches, cathedrals, skyscrapers.

During the ending part of XX° Century, the Institute became a “Laboratory of Science and Technology” in which was developed very different types of facilities and services.

For 45 years, “Ismes Notebooks” published 542 numbers since 1953 to 1996 on scientific fields and recollected memories of important international meetings and congresses.

An explanation of these wide applications are been represented in “Ismes today” programme, and describe sixteen fields of services, achieved on 1980.

1. Structural Analysis, computer-aided. 2. Dams, design checks, test on models and in situ, monitoring. 3. Prefabricate buildings, static and dynamic tests. 4. Bridges, tests on static and dynamic models. 5. Continuing education programme. 6. Nuclear power production, structural tests on models and prototypes. 7. Geophysical prospecting. 8. Dynamic qualification tests. 9. Non destructive tests, sonic method. 10. Geotechnical tests, in situ. 11. Geotechnical tests, laboratory. 12 Geomechanical tests. 13. Operating and approval tests. 14. Microseismic surveys. 15. Seismic monitoring. 16. Reinforced concrete structures, test on models and materials.

Since the1th November 2004 Ismes enterprise became part of Cesi (Italian Electro technical Experimental Institute), its main activities concerns managing civil structures safety control, dynamic tests with master system (MultiAxes Shaking Table for Earthquake Reproduction), and it is committed in Environmental Services Division.

Principal idea and aim of this project consists to overcome the resistance of public and private companies, to take part with people and public in general, their skills and scientific and technological applications achieved during many years of activities.

Final target should be to introduce a long term process, that promote the dissemination of knowledge for benefit all citizens and young companies in European Community, in particular.

Obviously it is easy to imagine that the conservation of this archive requires great resources to maintain paper historical archive, linking its own specific heritage with other private and public companies, improve and add the processing achievements, of last few years in a dynamic interaction.

At the present we have succeeded only the first purpose of our hopes, that is to say, to conserve and protecting from dispersion, the old archive and all documents such as photographs, films, design, libraries, by an estate notification that should realize the certification of civil and social historical relevance of ISMES Archive. But we have the dream to promote collaborations between scientific and technological community, schools, universities, public and private enterprises on projects and activities for social and cognitive benefits.

Now we should describe the consistence of Technical Archive and the projection that the actual organization could perform in the constitution of a digital library, on the guideline of cultural cooperation experimented especially in UK, in USA and in other countries of European Community.

ISMES paper archive collected about 100.000 technical reports: 10.000 harvested before the format protocol that had been introduced on 1993, and 90.000 collected after this change; moreover it contains a lot of documents without any catalogue.

All reports have a progressive number, or ACS number AC. Archive, S. (Hi)Storical; recording in a Data Base Microsoft Access, and any record describe: N. ACS; customer, report date emission, object or title of activity, relaters, number pages and pictures. After introduction of Protocol Office, it is possible to link every entry and exit document with a specific number code related to typology of ever different document.

Today we need to harvest historical technical reports in a data base system that make possible to restore deteriorated document or parts of them, and also to use especially digital reports for consulting operations. The scheme of the archive recording system can be explained by the sequence:

Query →User → ACS and/or N. Protocol → Date Base Document ↔ ACS /Data Base Protocol↔ Selected document.

With simple query of a key word, or more easily of free words, the data base system should find the note of all documents referring this question.

Computing process will be very accessible and it could be composed by:

I offer a digression about the very interesting applications achieved by Ismes in A. I. (Artificial Intelligence) Technology since 1980 and over. The sub-field of A. I. in civil engineering applications belong essentially to the so called expert system, also known as knowledge-based systems.

They are software systems that include a corpus of expert knowledge and processing abilities to deal with data in a way that can be compared with the experts of the domain.

In Ismes institute were been created and used many complex expert systems.

An exemplum is offered in an interesting article by Paolo Salvaneschi and Marco Lazzari concerning integrating database for applications in systems monitoring and safety problems.

MIDAS is a system for managing and processing the data that characterize the behaviour of a structure monitorated by on-site measurements networks. It is intended as a historical database, where large sets of data gathered by acquisition system can be transferred, stored, and than updated, retrieved, and processed quickly and with high reliability to produce, in the format required by supervisory agencies, all the graphic representations suitable for safety evaluation.

Moreover MIDAS makes it possible to interpret the behaviour of the structure through theoretical forecasting models. MIDAS may manage chronological data collected from any type of structure. The numerical models must be created specifically for the particular type of structure involved. MIDAS is organized in a modular structure and many users may access the system simultaneously. A number of structure databases may be managed concurrently.”

Ismes Archive on line. The project now explained, has as final target the creation of a digital library, in which the scientific and technological community could interact and participate his experience and achievements, friendly and also critically. The picture shows schematically the result of our work in progress.

Ismes Company should put on web some of its documents as:

Some notes about the scheme of any technical report are very interesting to know the method and the evaluation of this institute from past to now.

Anyone report contains a dissertation about mathematical and physic statements necessary to carried out the experimental tests and the displacement of instruments that have to posed in situ or in laboratory; the description of the situation by designs, schemes, photographs and measurements tables, in general in a good conservation condition.

Technical report is a finished product, fully autonomous (like a book), self-consistent, and it closes the relationship between the Enterprise and the customer.

In general we can divide a single report in a few simple subdivisions: title, index, summary or introduction, content of that specific report, conclusion, tables, pictures, and appendicles.

This reduction will be useful to chose keys words and to interchange by internet information coming from others database or archives.

The technology XML will be adopted to manage and organize the documents get on web. XML is a company standard independent from the possible ways to represent dates.

XML is a very useful and well known technology in web system; moreover it is be able to integrate heterogeneous ways of harvesting dates. So XML will be the base technology for the digital library. All documents should be put on web by XML system that gives to all formats such as: XTML, PDF, XML, WML… independently from hardware system.

The architecture web system will be organized as a tree levels modular digital library, easy and flexible to adopt time by time.

To select and organize the different levels to which anyone can consult the data base, and the availability of the documents which are been taken in digital library, could result as a crucial point in succeeding the proposal about the dissemination of knowledge and improving information technology field.

For example, It will be necessary reduce in abstracts the documents produced too recently, or not jet published.

Moreover, the enterprise owner of this digital library could use it as a powerful way of marketing solutions. So it should be possible to offer on web only the titles or others referring dates about the specific problem that was managed in the single document.

Different selecting criteria can be thought to access to anyone specific document:

  1. pre-definite key research

  2. research by specific names referring any activity described in the document
  3. free research by title’s word
  4. research by index or introduce word
  5. free research for complete document (if archived by vector PDF format).


Architectural historical heritage. Many texts and documents composed for about 40 years are involved with special structures in architectural design. An important book edited by ISMES on 1995 written by Roberto Riccioni and Pier Paolo Rossi: “Restauro edlizio e monumentale” refers about the situations of restorative and safety monitoring in archaeological and historical problems in Italy and in the world.

After an introduce about analysis on structural behaviour, that make be possible to carry out not- destructive analysis on masonry structures , we find a collection of 32 files each one concerns ancient monuments that were tested, monitored and controlled in situ and in laboratory by ISMES staff.

We give memory of some of these: Luxor Temple in Egypt, rock churches in Cappadocia, Pisa Tower, S. Eustorgio church, “Cenacle” fresco by Leonardo and Cathedral Dome in Milan, structural assessment of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, St. Mary of Flower church in Florence, Cathedral and National Palace in City of Mexico.

The particular development in dynamic structural analysis allowed to participate to the design of some important large dams, e.g.: Dez in Iran, Kurobe in Japan, El Novillo and Santa Rosa in Mexico, Moogerah and Kangaroo Creek in Australia, Rapel in Chile, Itaipù between Brazil and Paraguay, and many others in Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Bulgaria, ex-Yugoslavia countries, Norway etc.

Moreover the Institute supported the design of Pirelli’s skyscraper, Place Victoria building Montreal in Canada, Parque Central special building in Caracas Venezuela, S. Mary Cathedral in S. Francisco California, Bosphorus suspension bridge, Zarate Brazo Largo bridge, Nile river Shambat bridge, Mont Blanc tunnel, Cisa highway tunnel, different shells structures committed by architectural studios: P. Luigi Nervi, Fraioli, Blum, Yesselman, Morandi, Belluschi, Gambirasio, Sonzogni, Gian Carlo Giuliani and so on.

Since 1963 to 1988 were been performed important researches in energy systems especially nuclear energy statements, in collaboration with EURATOM, CNEN, ENEL, CNR etc…

We can say, without fear to be refuted, that ISMES Archive can expand its peculiarity linking the historical achievements in theoretical and experimental engineering with great benefit in studying and passing knowledge to new generations.

The method used by Scientific Committee for almost thirty years, created by Guido Oberti, with the special aim to offer both to universities both to enterprises, theoretical and practical solutions in civil engineering, can be considered the most important result obtained by ISMES Institute in cultural and educational field.

To develop more and more this method of collaboration in scientific and technological community, will give us the possibility to solve social problems with knowledge and proved experience, not only improve a few people business.


Others important references:








Polytechnics of Milan and Turin since 1950 to 2001.

UNESCO especially in theoretical studies on Earthquake Engineering in Mediterranean Areas 1963-1970.

(Carla Kovsca, MAY 2007)

Technological and scientific reports, produced by a Laboratory of Structural Engineering, can offer to public people an interesting example of complex analysis and facilities, from physical models to knowledge base system.
Saving ancient architectural heritage promoted high degree of collaboration among different partners.

We promote to create a digital library for a “Laboratory of Science and Technology” in which was developed very different types of facilities and services. Italy: 1951-2000.
Excellent degree of structural analysis joins in design and saving world architectural heritage.

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