|The Opificio delle Pietre Dure (also known as the OPD in its abbreviated form) is an autonomous Institute of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, whose operational, research and training activities find expression in the field of conservation of works of art.
The Institute’s composite origins, already indicated by its unusual name, are on the one hand the result of an old and illustrious tradition and on the other of a modern, well-organised activity. Established at the desire of Ferdinando I de’ Medici for the production and workmanship of semiprecious stone furnishings, the Opificio began in the late 19th century to transform its artistic activities into conservation practice, first on artefacts produced throughout its centuries-old history and later on analogous materials (stonework, mosaics, etc.). Following the 1975 law establishing the Ministry for Cultural Heritage, all of the Florentine state restoration laboratories converged in the historic Opificio, which had taken on new importance after the 1966 catastrophic floods. Historical architectural and the Archaeology Department’s conservation laboratory are not however under the responsibility of the Opificio.
The OPD currently publishes an annual review (“OPD Restauro”). It is, furthermore, the seat of one of the Italian state conservation schools (the other is annexed to the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro di Roma), of a museum displaying samples of its artistic semiprecious stone production, a scientific laboratory for diagnostics and research, a highly specialised library in the sphere of conservation, extremely rich archives documenting conservation projects, a research centre and a public climatology service. It is one of the largest institutions in Europe in this field, having at its disposal an interdisciplinary team of conservators, art historians, archaeologists, architects, scientific experts and documentalists.
The Institute’s activities are carried out in different conservation and research departments, depending on the materials of the art works concerned. The laboratory is divided into three main sectors: the historic headquarters in via Alfani (furthermore, seat of the museum, library and school), the modern allocation in Fortezza da Basso and the one in Palazzo Vecchio. A large proportion of the Institute’s work also takes place outside of its laboratories, not only on worksites but also in the sphere of consultation and technical-scientific planning, both on a national scale, throughout Italy, and on the international level.