A week in the life of a BSR award-holder

Living in such a culturally and historically rich city as Rome means that a wealth of opportunities are on offer, and our award-holders and residents have been making the most of this! Numerous excursions, gallery tours and conferences are attended each week, and here we take a look at the ‘extra-curricular’ activities of a typical week at the BSR.

All of our residents were invited to the opening of the Japanese House exhibition at the MAXXI last Tuesday, which runs until late February 2017, after which it will move to the Barbican Centre and then on to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. The exhibition featured a series of photographs and models exploring the development of postwar domestic architecture in Japan.

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Opening of the ‘Japanese House’ exhibition. Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Opening of the ‘Japanese House’ exhibition. Photo credit: Jana Schuster

Back at the BSR: as part of the research for her AHRC Leadership Fellowship, Amy Russell, 2009-10 Ralegh Radford Rome Scholar and current BSR Research Fellow, gave a fantastic lecture on the imperial senate and the way in which it interacted with both the emperor and the city. Joining us from slightly further afield, yesterday evening’s guest speaker William Gudenrath (Corning Museum of Glass, New York) gave a talk on the history of glasswork and the glassblower from early Roman antiquity through to its ‘golden age’ in the Renaissance.

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Amy Russell on ‘The imperial senate and the city of Rome’. Photo credit: Arthur Westwell

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William Gudenrath discusses different glassblowing techniques. Photo credit: Stephen Kay

These lectures will soon be available to watch again on YouTube, and you can always find out more about our upcoming events on our website.

As always, both lectures were followed by a lively question-and-answer session, with the discussions continuing in the atrium for a rinfresco and cena speciale.

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Discussion and rinfresco following a talk. Photo credit: Antonio Palmieri

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BSR tiramisù ready for a cena speciale!

The great wealth of history and art in Rome means that our residents have the chance to demonstrate their expertise on a huge range of topics. Last Thursday, our current Henry Moore Foundation–BSR Fellow in Sculpture, Simon Barker, led a trip to Tarquinia to see the stunning Etruscan tombs. Simon enlightened the group with his extensive knowledge of the Etruscan period, and the artists gave their perspectives on the styles and techniques of the artefacts and tomb paintings.

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Detail of one of the painted Etruscan tombs at Tarquinia. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

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Wandering through the National Archaeological Museum of Tarquinia. Photo by Ellie Johnson.

Friday saw our award-holders take on stone carving for the first time. Led by sculptor Peter Barstow Rockwell, each person was given a slab of stone to work on and instructed on how to work the material. Everyone returned exhausted from the effort of the carving, but had a fantastic time in the process!

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

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Photo credit: Jana Schuster

On Sunday 13 November 2016, Jacopo Benci (Senior Research Fellow in Modern Studies and Contemporary Visual Culture) organised and participated in an informal roundtable on women and artistic practice at  Centro Studi DARPS (Donne Arte Pensiero Società), where the five women artists currently in residence at the BSR (Kelly Best, Maria de Lima, Maria Farrar, Catherine Parsonage and Vivien Zhang) discussed with Marica Croce Caldarulo (director of DARPS), Serena Alessi (literary critic and women’s studies scholar; BSR Rome Fellow, Oct 2016-June 2017), Lucrezia Cippitelli (art critic; lecturer in Aesthetics, Florence Academy of Fine Arts; lecturer in Art Theories, University of Addis Ababa); Costanza Mazzonis (contemporary art consultant, Sotheby’s Italy), and Marina Micangeli Sanfelice (entrepreneur).

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Enjoying some burrata at the DARPS event

One of the many perks of being a BSR resident is the access to sites that are usually closed to the public. Today marked a particularly special trip: Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens led a visit to the Casa Bellezza, a series of fantastically preserved frescoed rooms from the late Republican era which sit underneath a 1930s structure which was the home of conductor Vincenzo Bellezza.

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Photo credit: Vivien Zhang

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Photo credit: Maria Farrar

Just another week at the BSR!

Ellie Johnson (Administrative Assistant (Communications and Events))

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40 years on from the excavations at San Giovanni di Ruoti

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‘Alastair Small (Rome Scholar 1965-7) began work near the small village of San Giovanni di Ruoti in Basilicata (ancient Lucania) in the 1970s with Robert Buck, and with the encouragement of Dinu Adamesteanu, the great superintendent of the region. The local historian Gerardo Salinardi had drawn attention to the potential of the site, then accessible only by mule. The excavation from 1977 to 1984 revealed a stunning villa site, occupying a beautiful position looking down the Valley of the Fiumara di Avigliano, towards the ever receding hills.

The site produced splendid late Roman mosaic floors (now in the museum at Muro Lucano), and had its own bath building. It was on two floors, with a large absidal building, and perhaps the most significant aspect is its continuity. There appears to have been an early phase which began around the time of Augustus and continued just into the third century, but when the villa sparks back into life in around 300 it continues into the mid-seventh century.

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Site tour with Alastair and Carola Small.

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Life was not entirely ordered – the disused areas show extraordinary amounts of rubbish and animal remains – but at the same time, San Giovanni di Ruoti remained connected, especially to Adriatic trade.

 

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Alastair speaking at the presentation of the new volume La villa romana e tardoantica di San Giovanni di Ruoti (Basilicata). Una sintesi.

Alastair returned earlier this month to San Giovanni for the presentation of a synthesis of the excavation, produced with Francesco Tarlano.  The volume, La villa romana e tardoantica di San Giovanni di Ruoti (Basilicata). Una sintesi (published superbly by Pisani Teodosio Edizioni) is a sharp, clear and well-illustrated account of this important villa site, summarising work published in the more imposing Phoenix supplements which experts will know (two more volumes are due).

I was privileged to be part of the event, and it was yet another illustration of the passion Italians have for their heritage. Alastair and Carola Small, indefatigable as ever, were at the heart of everything – a tour round the site with an eager audience, talks in the evening in a packed hall; and many memories.  This was a dig which had engaged a community, and archive photos of the 1970s team were eagerly scrutinized for friends and relatives. Some of the Canadian team came too – husband and wife Eric Haldenby and Rosemary Aicher, who met at Ruoti, and Joann Freed who worked on the pottery.  Luisa Troiano, who had moved to America in the 1960s, and whose generosity made the whole project possible, gave a gracious speech and was cheered to the rafters. Everything was managed impeccably by Felice Faraone, whose idea it had all been.

The following day, Alastair, Carola and I travelled to Muro Lucano to see the mosaics and the other treasures of this super museum, directed by Salvatore Pagliuca, who has created a little gem, with a stunning sixth-century grave from Baragiano to gladden my heart.

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Salvatore Pagliuca with a group at the Muro Museum.

I stayed in the aptly named and very lovely Dimora di Bacco, where Luigi Nardiello and Giuseppina Matturro were bringing in the vintage from their vineyard. Much in Basilicata has not changed, and perhaps in particular its capacity to run at a different pace from the rest of Italy, just as in antiquity its cultural activity outlasted northern neighbours.  Recently, it has been in the news for its acceptance of large numbers of migrants (in late Antiquity it was the Lombards of course).  It scores extraordinarily highly in tourist satisfaction, but is far less visited than other parts of Italy; and San Giovanni di Ruoti is in need of attention – it must either be restored properly or backfilled. Basilicata goes its own way, but investment is needed.

This story can be multiplied almost endlessly – a small town, well excavated by a super team, with huge local enthusiasm, and revealing unknown treasures.  It is what makes Italian archaeology so very remarkable – it is not just a scientific process, it is also a way in which discovering the past makes new memories, creates new communities, and refocuses older ones. This story stands for the many times I have encountered the impact of archaeology in Italy, and in this instance, much is owed to the BSR’s great friend Alastair Small, for whom the affection in this local community was palpable. Bravo Alastair!’

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Christopher Smith (BSR Director)

Digging Pompeii: the 2016 summer excavations

This summer saw the second season of work by the BSR, the Ilustre Colegio Oficial de Doctores y Licenciados en Letras y Ciencias de Valencia y Castellòn. Departamento de Arqueologia and the Museo de Prehistoria e Historia de La Diputación De Valencia at the site of the necropolis of Porta Nola outside the north-eastern gate of Pompeii. Following the success last year of the discovery of a further burial inside the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus and the excavation of cremations alongside the city wall, the 2016 season concentrated on two further areas within the necropolis.

The 2016 International Field School saw the participation of 22 students from ten different countries who over the course of five weeks were trained in excavation techniques, ceramic identification and osteology, with a focus on studying cremation burials. Alongside the team, conservators continued work begun last year on the structure of the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus as well as conserving the objects being recovered from the site.

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Study of the cremations of two Praetorian guards. Photo by Charles Avery.

This summer’s excavation focused on the area immediately behind the tomb of Marcus Obellius Firmus in order to understand its relationship with the smaller gateway into the necropolis and understand whether it formed part of the funerary precinct or delimited the pomerium of the city. The excavation discovered a number of deposits alongside the gate resulting from the cleaning of ustrinum (the place of a funerary pyre), as well as a beaten earth road that led through the gate to the circuit road of the city. As ever with excavations, on the final day an ustrinum was discovered at the very limit of the trench, complete with burnt human bone, ash and large pieces of carbon. This will be investigated in the final season of excavation next year.

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Excavation of a vase behind the Tomb of Obellius Firmus. Photo by Stephen Kay.

Elsewhere on the site the excavation of a rectangular structure was completed, built just behind the funerary monument of Aesquillia Polla. Variously described by earlier research as a funerary precinct, garden or ustrinum, the 2016 excavation sought to understand the role of this structure, built in a prominent position opposite the Nolan Gate. Once the excavation had removed layers dating to activity of the early twentieth century, which included the burial of a dog and the loss of several terracotta smoking pipes, the work revealed large deposits of construction material used to raise the level beneath the building. However the 2016 excavation did not record any cremations, supporting the theory of a late construction that was not used before the eruption of AD 79.

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A coin of Divo Augusto issued under Tiberius (15 – 16 AD). Photo by Stephen Kay.

The Porta Nola Necropolis Project is extremely grateful for the support shown by the Soprintendenza Pompeii, in particular the Soprintendente Professor Massimo Osanna and the funzionario for the area Dott.ssa Annalisa Capurso. Permission and assistance was also kindly given by Dott.ssa Laura D’Esposito and Dott.ssa Marialaura Ladanza for the osteological study of two Praetorian burials, excavated in the mid 1970s by the Soprintendenza. In the field, the team was kindly supported by the Soprintendenza excavation assistant Sig. Vincenzo Sabini. The project is directed by Llorenç Alapont, Rosa Albiach and Stephen Kay with the support of a team of specialists: Trinidad Pasies (Conservator), Letizia Ceccarelli (Finds Officer), Ilaria Frumenti (Surveyor), Fabio Mestici (Numismatist) and Pasquale Longobardi (Health and Safety Officer). The 2016 excavations were supervised by Pedro Corredor, Tomas Jirak, Monika Koroniova, Adrià Pitarch and Sheyla Sancho. Finally, a huge thank you to all the students who participated in the excavation this year for their tremendous hard work.

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Members of the 2016 excavation team. Photo by Llorenç Alapont.

Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)

 

 

Glass encounters from Pompeii

In a blog originally published on the Cambridge Journals Blog Hilary Cool reflects on how she tackled the topic of her forthcoming article in Papers of the British School at Rome which is due to be published later this year.

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Counters form Gloucester, Pompeii and set into the wall of the Nymphaeum in the Casa di Augusto, Rome (Image by Hilary Cool and Mike Baxter).

‘It is always unwise to agree to do something without thinking through the consequences. My involvement with the small finds and glass vessels from the excavation of Insula VI.1 in Pompeii came from a casual encounter with the excavation team in 1999. My husband and I were having a day out to the city as part of a holiday in Naples. I returned in 2001 to produce a short report on the glass that I had been shown, calculating that it would take me a fortnight. Fifteen years later, I am just completing the rather large book on the 5000 or so identifiable objects the excavations eventually produced.

This work has had to be fitted into such free time as my work within the commercial sector of British archaeology allows. In the day-job, the research I conduct is planned and justified meticulously in advance. It is the way you get the client to fund it! The same cannot be said for my Pompeii work which, in the absence of any funding body, is free to wander into all sorts of areas. One of these is the question of what the 500 or more glass counters found were used for, and this is the subject of my forthcoming article in the Papers of the British School in Rome.

The Romans did have board games which used counters. One – ludus latrunculorum – was a game akin to chess or draughts where the aim was to win pieces from your opponent. The other game – ludus xii scripta – was played with dice and was akin to backgammon, where you aimed to play your counters off the board before your opponent did. In my home environment of Roman-Britain, most plano-convex discs of glass can be casually assigned to the recreation category. Counters like this, made of black and white glass, are a regular feature of first to second century AD assemblages and, from time to time, conveniently appear in graves with dice. They even, in one very rare occurrence, are laid out on a board ready for play.

So, when I started to encounter glass counters at Pompeii, I thought I had evidence of the sort of games that can be seen depicted in the paintings on the walls of bars in the city. In one there is an enchanting sequence where the evening of a pair of drinkers can be seen. They argue over many things, including who has won a game of xii scripta, before being banned by the barmaid for bad behaviour.

Increasingly though, the counters I was cataloguing at Pompeii didn’t seem to match what was appropriate for a gaming piece. You need to have easily differentiated sets for each player. This is what is seen in known sets from graves where normally there is a simple division between black and white counters such as ones from Gloucester which I illustrate above. The literary sources back this up. They too talk of black and white counters. My Pompeii counters, however, were all sorts of colours and different sizes. Some were a single colour, some combined different colours, and the range of shades encountered taxed even me, as a skilled glass specialist, to differentiate. These were not the sort of things that the drinkers in the bar pictures could have used with any ease, especially after several glasses of wine.

The paper describes how I disentangled which plano-convex glass discs were indeed used for gaming, and which must have been used for something else. What that something else might have been is intriguing. I suspect it is an aspect of interior decoration. There is some evidence of glass ‘counters’ in ceiling and wall decoration in Rome, but very possibly they could have decorated wooden furniture and fittings as well. Glass survives. Wood doesn’t.

The Pompeii work in its wider aspects has often challenged my preconceptions of what ‘Roman’ material culture actually is. Within Roman Britain we see a lot of changes in the mid first century AD after the conquest which we ascribe to ‘becoming Roman’. My contemporary patterns at Pompeii are different. Acquiring a working knowledge of how those Pompeian patterns relate to the rest of contemporary Italy has been an interesting challenge. My sort of work requires a considerable amount of interrogation of published sources which are frequently obscure. The discovery of the British School at Rome Library has been a godsend, and since 2012 I have been steadily mining it when I can find time to visit. I’m still not sure if I now know what ‘Roman’ material culture is, but exploring that further is another project.’

Written by Hilary Cool

Ian Haynes on the Lateran Project

In this week’s blog Ian Haynes, Professor of Archaeology at Newcastle University, gives us an insight into his work on the Lateran Project, a collaboration between Newcastle University, the University of Florence,  the Vatican Museums and the BSR. The excavations under San Giovanni in Laterano (known as the Caput et Mater of all churches of western Christendom) have far-reaching implications for the study of the early church, imperial security, and our understanding of the development of Rome more generally.

 

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BSR award-holders visit the excavations. Photo by Giorgio Lizzul.

‘It was at once a privilege and the pleasingly fitting culmination to a programme of survey and analysis that had repeatedly seen dust-covered members of the Lateran Project squeezing through labyrinthine passageways deep underground. Special access to the Archbasilica of St John Lateran was graciously granted by Mons. Natalino Zagotto (the Camerlengo of the Lateran Chapter) so that the project team could work across the magnificent cathedral late into the night, long after its doors were closed to the general public.

After years studying the Lateran quarter and the sequence of buildings preserved beneath the Archbasilica and its celebrated Baptistery, including the complex’s Constantinian foundations, the team were more than  ready to reappraise the Papal Cathedral’s spacious interior.

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Visualising the Constantinian Basilica – Early work, next come the fittings and the challenge of the fastigium

Laser scanning by Alex Turner and Dave Heslop (Newcastle), photographic survey by Sabrina Amaducci (Florence) and an integrated ground penetrating radar survey by Salvatore Piro and Daniela Zamuner (ITABC, CNR) each yielded highlights, but so too did the opportunity for concentrated uninterrupted observation of some of the least accessible parts of the complex by the naked eye. Scrutinizing possible traces of Constantinian building fabric high up in a bell tower, or even just taking in the glories of the magnificent golden ceilings from the proximity of the organ loft were themselves career highlights.

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The team above ground, Salvatore Piro conducts a ground penetrating radar survey in the Archbasilica

Launched by myself (Ian Haynes, Newcastle), Paolo  Liverani (University of Florence) and Giandomenico Spinola (Vatican Museums) almost a decade ago the British School of Rome / British Academy-sponsored Lateran Project had already amassed over 2 TB of survey and scanning data before it embarked on the standing fabric of the Archbasilica.

From the outset the aim had been to analyse every major phase of development at the Lateran quarter, from the palatial housing that dominated the site up until the second century AD, through the remarkable barracks of the imperial horseguard that replaced it under the emperor Septimius Severus, to the foundation of the Basilica by Constantine – the first cathedral, a structure of such pre-eminence that it was to become known as the Caput et Mater of all churches of Western Christendom.  But it was most particularly fortunate that as our analysis of this phase of the sequence got underway we were able to join forces with Lex Bosman (University of Amsterdam), an architectural historian with a profound knowledge of the Constantinian Basilica and its decorative scheme.

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The team below ground

As our analysis of all this data advances following a rigorous programme of building analysis, the team are making extensive use of visualisation as a tool to power ever more refined interpretation and, subsequently, to disseminate project findings.  A series of magnificent concept models and full colour visualisations, have been produced in collaboration with leading architectural visualisation expert Iwan Peverett, and more are soon to follow. The team’s discoveries and the release of our visualisations of the world’s first cathedral will be presented in public for the first time at our Colloquium on St John Lateran, to take place at the British School at Rome from 19 to 21 September 2016.’

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The Lateran conference coordinators (left to right) Ian Haynes, Paolo Liverani and Lex Bosman

Ian Haynes (Newcastle University)


Director Christopher Smith writes ‘We are delighted to have been able to support this project, and we look forward to the conference and resulting publication, which will follow on from our work on Old St Peter’s and on S. Maria Antiqua.  Many thanks also to Ian, Paolo and colleagues at the Vatican Museums for guiding generations of BSR award-holders, visitors and indeed staff visit his very special site!’

KCL Classics comes to Rome

In December 2015 the Classics department of King’s College London organised a visit (the department’s annual ‘Rumble Trip’) to Rome for its students. We were delighted to be able to host the group and organise ‘unique and privileged access to Rome’s archaeological highlights’. This week’s blog is a re-post of the group’s report on the trip. We hope to see many of you return in the future!

‘The 2015-16 academic year saw the Department’s first Rumble Trip to Italy: from 13 to 17 December 2015 a group of some 20 students departed for a jam-packed tour of Rome.

As with all departmental Rumble Trips, the full costs of this trip were covered by the Jamie Rumble Memorial Fund. Staying right in the heart of the city, students were given unique and privileged access to Rome’s archaeological highlights; a series of tours and visits were arranged in collaboration with the British School at Rome. This year, the Rumble trip was led in close conjunction with our undergraduate modules on Roman Art, and guided by Dr Michael Squire and Dr John Pearce.

Group photo of students on Rumble Fund Trip 2015-16

Students were able to enjoy the many splendours that Rome has to offer, and the city looked especially stunning with its Christmas lights and festive windows. Not only did students enjoy specially arranged seminars and a lecture at the British School at Rome, they were also given privileged access to monuments and sites usually closed to the public (including the Mausoleum of Augustus, parts of the Castel Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican Necropolis). The trip took in many highlights – including numerous museums (the Palazzo Massimo, Musei Capitolini, Palazzo Valentini, the Ara Pacis Museum and Palazzo Altemps), as well as all the most important archaeological sites (and ice-cream shops!) in the city.

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For a brief report on the trip by one of our students, please see Pippa Leon’s diary. This year, for the first time, we also established a hashtag for students to post their pictures and comments: tweets, photos and posts can be found under the hashtag #kclrumblerome, or through the Facebook group.

Students and staff in the department are hugely grateful to everyone who made the trip such a success, not least to the British School at Rome and its Director, Prof. Christopher Smith. Above all, we are grateful to our former student who established the Jamie Rumble Memorial Fund in 2012.

Students in front of statues

Plans for the 2016–2017 Rumble Trip are now well underway: the department will be returning to Greece, in connection with undergraduate and postgraduate modules on the Classical Art of the Body.

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Staff and students are hugely proud of the fully subsidised learning opportunities that the Rumble Fund facilitates: King’s is currently the only Classics Department in Britain to offer such extended fieldtrips to Classical lands, integrated within our programme of undergraduate/graduate modules, and without any cost to our students. Similar trips to Classical lands – accompanied by departmental teaching staff, and integrated within our Classical archaeology modules – are offered each year, and are open to all King’s BA and/or MA students free of charge. For further information about the Rumble Fund, or to find out about other initiatives within our Classical art history teaching programme, please contact Dr Michael Squire.’

New year, new projects, new partners

As we look ahead to an exciting new year at the BSR, Director Christopher Smith takes a look at some of the partnerships — old and new — that will be taking us forward in 2016.

‘We have always believed in partnerships, and the quality of our partnerships defines us.  The BSR has renewed its successful Memorandum of Understanding with the British Museum, with whom we have worked on topics as diverse as Pompeii and Herculaneum, geophysics in Sudan, the restoration of the garden of the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome, and Napoleon in Italy.

napoleon pvBSR Members at a private view of the exhibition Bonaparte and the British: Prints and Propaganda in the Age of Napoleon at the British Museum in 2015. Photograph by Kirsten Amor.

The partnership was renewed on the day that Neil MacGregor welcomed his last object into the BM — a cross made from the wreckage of a refugee boat whose survivors landed at Lampedusa.  The BSR’s own interests in Lampedusa began with a visit by Thomas Ashby early last century, and were recently revisited in the award-winning Channel 4 documentary by Zed Nelson (BSR Photoworks Fellow 2012-13).

Photographs of Lampedusa Island taken by Thomas Ashby in 1909. Images courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive.

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The Lampedusa Cross, made by Francesco Tuccio and donated to the British Museum in October 2015. ©  Trustees of the British Museum.

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Migrant boat graveyard, Lampedusa, Italy (above) and Fanus, a survivor from the October 2013 migrant boat tragedy (below). Photographs by Zed Nelson.

The BSR is also proud to announce three new partnerships. The first, with the Ashmolean Museum, will be celebrated in June, when the BSR will present, uniquely at the British Academy, both the BM and the Ashmolean exhibitions on Sicily.

The second, a partnership with the United Nations’ International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome reflects our established position as a leading player in cultural heritage management, and we will act as a bridge between ICCROM and UK universities, especially in work in the Balkans and North Africa.  We look forward to a workshop funded by the US State Department and run jointly with the Swedish and American Academies and with the Society for Libyan Studies later this year.

For the third, the Digital Art History team at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles has launched a new project, the Getty Scholars’ Workspace.  BSR Librarian Valerie Scott and BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco have been nominated Project Researchers and will visit the GRI to discuss future collaborative projects using the new Platform.

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Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. Image courtesy of Valerie Scott.

We continue our association with the Rome Art History Network, an international group of art historians based in Rome whose activities foster collaboration amongst the researchers of foreign academies and Italian cultural institutions.

Natasha Adamou (Henry Moore Foundation-BSR Fellow 2015–16) and Caspar Pearson (Paul Mellon Centre Rome Fellow 2015–16). Photographs by Antonio Palmieri.

Through these and other partnerships with, for instance, the Museum of London, Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Henry Moore Foundation*, and the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, as well as numerous universities in the UK and the Commonwealth, the other foreign academies in Rome and a score of collaborations with Italian authorities, the BSR remains a critical intellectual meeting point, and we are proud of the number of world class institutions who choose to work with us.’

Christopher Smith (Director)

 


 

*To listen to the talk given at the BSR by Chris Stephens, curator of the recent Henry Moore exhibition at the Baths of Diocletion, visit our YouTube channel.