Summer #ObjectOfTheWeek

Every Thursday over the summer we highlighted an #ObjectOfTheWeek from our archives and special collections on Twitter and Instagram.

We asked some of our staff to choose an object and tell us why it is important to them, and here is what they picked out.

What’s your favourite object from the BSR collections?


Peter Campbell, Assistant Director for Archaeology and Archaeological Science

@peterbcampbell

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‘This map (c.1762, dedicated to British architect Robert Adam) from our special collections shows the Campus Martius in the Roman period as imagined by Piranesi. As a maritime archaeologist I particularly enjoyed the detail of Tiber Island’

 


Harriet O’Neill, Assistant Director for the Humanities and Social Sciences

@HarrietONeill01

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‘This catalogue gives real insight into the British contribution to the 1911 International Fine Arts Exhibition. I find it amazing that paintings by Constable, Reynolds & Gainsborough once hung here in Rome and the efforts that were made to transport them. I am curious about how audiences moved around the exhibition, and what the paintings, prints and drawings on display were intended to communicate about contemporary British art’

 


Alessandra Giovenco, Archivist

@ale_jeee

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‘This stereoscope was recently acquired by our Photo Archive thanks to Tony Richards of The John Rylands Library. A common means of entertainment in the Victorian age, it was the first successful attempt to render an image in 3D form through a particular photographic layout’

 


Martina Caruso, Assistant Director for Art, Architecture and the Creative Industries

@LcarusoMartina

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‘This is not an aerial landscape but a photo by Agnes Bulwer of a C13 embroidery at Anagni near Rome, taken to help historian ‘Miss RF Pulley (Mrs HH Jewell)’ on her mission to study English embroideries that had travelled to Italy. The photo was taken in 1910. Pulley coloured two of the series of photographs which were then exhibited in the British Historical Section of the Rome Exhibition in 1911. Little is known of the Bulwer sisters. We know the younger sister Dora was born in Naples, and after the death of their mother, they moved to Rome. The BSR holds five albums of their views of Italy, France, Greece and personal travel photos bsrdigitalcollections.it/dab.aspx ‘

 


Valerie Scott, Librarian

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‘A snapshot of the Roman Campagna in 1704 by cartographer Giovanni Battista Cingolani della Pergola, engraving by Pietro Paolo Girelli, from our Libray’s Special Collections. The detail is remarkable. For example, number 184 corresponds to the information that the land was owned by Cardinal Decano. Visit www.bsrdigitalcollections.it to find out more’

 


Stephen Kay, Archaeology Officer

@stephenjohnkay

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‘This series of aerial photographs of Portus was taken by the RAF on the 30 March 1944. The photographs, now curated by the ICCD, were saved by John Ward-Perkins following World War Two. They are a major resource for archaeologists to understand the changing landscape of Italy’

 


Stephen Milner, Director
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And to round off our summer #ObjectOfTheWeek series BSR Director Stephen Milner chose our trusty moka pots used to make the coffee, or ‘black gold’, that fuels life at the BSR. Captured beautifully here by this year’s Québec Resident Dan Popa.

 

Restoring the ‘Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, mastro dell’arte del cucinare’

(English translation below)

La Biblioteca della BSR possiede due volumi dell’Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi.  L’edizione del 1643 e la preziosissima prima edizione del 1570.

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Bartolomeo Scappi, cuoco privato dei pontefici Paolo III e Pio V, fu l’autore di quello che viene considerato il più importante testo di Gastronomia del XVI secolo, Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, mastro dell’arte del cucinare, divisa in sei libri (1570).

Scappi prestò servizio come cuoco presso i più noti personaggi del tempo, tra cui il pontefice Pio V per il quale curò il banchetto d’intronizzazione, divenendone successivamente ‘cuoco segreto’ (cioè ‘privato’).

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I sei volumi della sua Opera propongono al lettore oltre mille ricette, ma suggeriscono anche innovative tecniche di ristorazione, preziosi suggerimenti per la conservazione degli alimenti, regole per l’allestimento di banchetti e tutte le conoscenze che un cuoco rinascimentale di alto livello doveva possedere.  Nel trattato troviamo persino i primi cenni di cucina dietetica per persone inferme e utili riflessioni sull’igiene alimentare.  Tra le tante curiosità in cui ci si può imbattere durante la lettura dell’Opera vi è la prima raffigurazione conosciuta di una forchetta o la definizione del parmigiano reggiano come ‘il miglior formaggio del mondo’.

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Nel 2017 la BSR ha provveduto al restauro e alla conservazione dell’edizione del 1643.  Grazie a questo intervento, eseguito a cura dello Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo, il libro è ora perfettamente recuperato e fruibile.

Nuove prospettive si aprono ora per il restauro e la conservazione della rarissima edizione del 1570. Si è, infatti, avviata una proficua collaborazione con l’Istituto Alberghiero ‘Sandro Pertini’ di Brindisi.  Sotto la guida della Prof.ssa Severina Carnevale, ideatrice del progetto, gli studenti di questa scuola hanno così deciso di ‘adottare’ il libro. Per ora l’incontro con il prezioso volume è potuto avvenire solo via Skype, grazie alla disponibilità della Bibliotecaria della BSR, Dott.ssa Valerie Scott, e della restauratrice Luigia Antonazzo.

L’interesse dei giovani studenti è stato grande e con i loro docenti, Professori Miano, Bistanti, Rubino, Marrazzo, Ugenti, De Giuseppe, Mariano, Fanciullo e Pellegrino, hanno avviato un percorso di ricerca e recupero delle antiche ricette di Scappi culminato nell’allestimento di un ‘Saggio di Cucina Rinascimentale’.  Un vero e proprio ‘banchetto rinascimentale’ tenutosi il 6 giugno 2019 presso le sale dell’Istituto Pertini.  Il ‘Menù dei Papi’ è stato molto apprezzato dai commensali e tante sono state le curiosità riguardo le tecniche e gli ingredienti usati.

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I piatti serviti sono stati: uovo ripieno, crostone con capirotata, gattafure di cipolle alla genovese,riso alla damaschina, arrosto con prugne-uvetta e mele, insalata di mescolanza con fiori, insalata con capperi ed uva passa, fraole saucate con zuccaro, torta bianca reale, finocchio fresco dolce, arance candite e taralli dolci.

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Un grande plauso, dunque, agli studenti del Pertini, con l’augurio che la collaborazione possa proseguire e che il patrimonio librario della BSR possa essere utile alla ulteriore crescita della loro sensibilità storica e delle loro competenze professionali.

Gina Antonazzo (Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo)

http://www.brindisitime.it/presso-lalberghiero-pertini-si-e-svolto-il-saggio-di-cucina-rinascimentale/

 


 

Bartolomeo Scappi, private chef to Popes Paul III and Pius V, was the author of what would come to be considered the most important text on gastronomy from the 16th century, Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, maestro dell’arte del cucinare (1570).

The BSR Library has two volumes of the Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, the 1643 edition, and the first edition of 1570.

Scappi took up service as chef to Pope Pius V for whom he prepared the banquet of enthronement, and thereafter became known as the ‘secret chef’ (in the sense of ‘private’).

The six volumes of his Opera set out over 1,000 recipes, but also make suggestions about innovative techniques for food conservation, how to set up the banquet tables and everything you might want to learn from a renaissance chef working in the top echelons of society. We even find mention of dietary requirements for the sick, and some useful reflections on food hygiene. Amongst other curiosities within the book we find the first depiction of a fork, as well as Parmigiano Reggiano being described as ‘the best cheese in the world’.

In 2017 the BSR arranged for the restoration and conservation of the 1643 edition. Thanks to this intervention, carried out by Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo, the book is now perfectly salvaged and usable.

New possibilities are now opening up for the restoration and conservation of the rare edition of 1570, in the form of a collaboration with the Istituto Alberghiero ‘Sandro Petrini’ in Brindisi. Under the guidance of Professor Severina Carnevale, the project’s creator, students of the school have ‘adopted’ the book. So far, their contact with the book has only been possible through Skype, thanks to the willingness of BSR Librarian, Valerie Scott, and the restorer Luigia Antonazzo.

The students took great interest, and alongside their teachers, Professors Miano, Bistanti, Rubino, Marrazzo, Ugenti, De Giuseppe, Mariano, Fanciullo and Pellegrino, they began a course researching and rediscovering Scappi’s recipes, culminating in the production of a ‘Saggio di Cucina Rinascimentale’, and a Renaissance banquet was held on 6 June at the Istituto Pertini. The ‘Menu di Papa’ was much appreciated by the diners who were intrigued by the techniques and ingredients used. The dishes were as follows: uovo ripieno, crostone con capirotata, gattafure di cipolle alla genovese,riso alla damaschina, arrosto con prugne-uvetta e mele, insalata di mescolanza con fiori, insalata con capperi ed uva passa, fraole saucate con zuccaro, torta bianca reale, finocchio fresco dolce, arance candite etaralli dolci.

Many thanks to the students of the Istituto Pertini – we hope that this collaboration will continue to offer them a sense of the historical tradition in which they are working as they progress in their culinary careers.

Gina Antonazzo (Studio Aelle di Luigia Antonazzo)

http://www.brindisitime.it/presso-lalberghiero-pertini-si-e-svolto-il-saggio-di-cucina-rinascimentale/

 


Back in February BSR cook Luca Albanese treated BSR staff, residents and award-holders to a Renaissance themed dinner based on one of Scappi’s recipes, which included costolette di maiale, cavolo alla romanesca, and rotolo di datteri.

 

 

Ashby Patrons Weekend 2019

This month we hosted our Ashby Patrons visit to Rome, a highlight of the BSR’s annual calendar. The benefaction of our Ashby Patrons plays a vital role in supporting the BSR. This special weekend, exclusively for Ashby Patrons, is a unique opportunity to become more closely involved with the BSR’s activities, award-holders and staff and to understand first-hand the work and mission of the institution. This years’ programme did not disappoint, with a full schedule of varied activities and excursions.

Studio tours (2)

The opportunity for our Patrons to meet and engage with our current resident award-holders is a key part of the weekend, be that through the medium of presentations, studio tours or one-to-one informal conversations over dinner.

Patrons Rinfresco

The first full day of the Patrons weekend included a behind-the-scenes visit to see the collections, Library and Archive of the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca, a historically important institution which the BSR collaborates closely with, recently co-hosting this academic years’ international RA250 conference: The Roman Art World in the Eighteenth Century and the Birth of the Art Academy in Britain.

Academia Nazionale di San Luca

Following the visit, we were most grateful for the hospitality of Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Mrs Sally Axworthy MBE, who hosted us at the current Ambassadorial Residence for lunch. HMA Mrs Axworthy explained the direction and work of the Embassy in the context of current major global challenges.

Lunch at the British Embassy to the Holy See

On return to the BSR the Patrons were treated to a wet-plate collodion workshop given by Heritage Photography expert Tony Richards , which focused on the BSR’s archive collections and the photographs of Thomas Ashby, the BSR’s illustrious first director, after whom the Ashby Patrons are named.

Wet Plate Collodion shotThe second day continued along this watery theme… our Patrons took to the river for a boat trip down the Tiber. Despite rather wet conditions our spirits were not dampened – the cruise was most interesting. In the words of Director Stephen Milner it was an “eerie experience cruising down the Tiber… No boats, no developments, no tourists… an abandoned wildlife corridor to the sea. Yet once the umbilical cord that sustained one of the greatest cities known to human history”. The BSR has long worked on both the city and the port of Ostia and Portus, yet future research hopes to explore the river connections between the three sites.

Our boat docked at Isola Sacra where, after lunch, we were treated to a guided tour of the ancient Necropolis by Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay. This site was included in the area which was surveyed as part of The Portus Project, a very successful and long-standing research collaboration between the British School at Rome, the University of Southampton and the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Colosseo, il MNR e l’Area Archeologica di Roma.

 

To conclude the weekend, Director Stephen Milner delivered a ‘State of the Nation’ address to the Patrons, outlining the current direction and future of the BSR. In light of the update on the progress of the work currently being undertaken on the Lutyens façade, the Patrons were given the opportunity to view Lutyens’ original architectural drawings, recently returned to the BSR and partly conserved due to the generosity of the Patrons additional gifts.  

It was a pleasure to host the Ashby Patrons in Rome and to thank them for their continued encouragement and support.

If you are interested in becoming an Ashby Patron, or would like to learn more about how to support the BSR, please contact Alice Marsh on outreach@bsrome.it

 

Text by Alice Marsh (Impact and Engagement Officer). Images by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager).

Second World War military intelligence: aerial photography in the Mediterranean Theatre

Earlier this year as part of the event Second World War military intelligence: aerial photography in the Mediterranean Theatre, we were delighted to welcome Allan Williams, director of the UK’s National Collection of Aerial Photography (based in Edinburgh). The NCAP is dedicated to the conservation and dissemination of aerial photography, and the majority of their holdings focus on Germany and Austria, though a significant proportion covers Italy and the Mediterranean, holding further research potential.

Allan was joined by Elizabeth Jane Shepherd, of the Aerofototeca Nazionale, ICCD, who spoke alongside BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco about the BSR RAF Collections. You can read more about the event in Italian in this article in Geomedia.

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Aerial photograph of the BSR and the Valle Giulia in 1944

We were also honoured to be joined by Francesco Scoppola, Director of Direzione Generale Educazione e Ricerca at MiBACT.

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Francesco Scoppola (Director of Direzione Generale Educazione e Ricerca at MiBACT) with BSR Director Stephen Milner and BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco

A small exhibition was organized with some archival items from the Aerofototeca Nazionale as well as the BSR Administrative Archive. Original documents and the box in which the photographs were initially stored were on display, alongside reproductions in large scale of aerial views. Also on display was a video telling the story of the huge endeavour that involved thousands of officers, both women and men, in the photo interpretation units in their attempt to defeat the Axis powers.

The story of these collections started with John Bryan Ward-Perkins in the last days of World War Two.

 

The two Johns

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John Bryan Ward-Perkins (Photo: BSR Archives, courtesy of the Ward-Perkins family)

John Bryan Ward-Perkins – the BSR’s director from 1945 to 1974 – is well-known for his role as one of the World War Two Monuments Men in his capacity as Deputy Director of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Allied Sub-Commission in Italy from 1944 to early 1946. Originally recruited to the 42nd Mobile LA regiment by Mortimer Wheeler, Ward-Perkins spent much of the war in North Africa, particularly Lepcis Magna in Libya. During the war he was enrolled to participate in a massive survey of war damage to Italian heritage as Deputy Director and then Director of the MFA&A Allied Sub-Commission.

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Aerial view of Rome, courtesy Aerofototeca Nazionale, ICCD.

It was in his capacity as a Monuments Man that Ward-Perkins was initially approached by John Bradford (pictured below on the left), a pioneer in landscape archaeology and aerial photography for research and scientific purposes. John Bradford was an English historian from Christ Church College, Oxford, who was recruited as photo interpreter in 1943 by the Mediterranean Allied Photographic Reconnaissance Wing (MAPRW) based in San Severo, a small village in Southern Italy (Puglia).

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John Bradford with his wife Patience and brother-in-law Derek. The photo was taken by the siblings’ father in 1950 (photo taken from John Bradford e la ricerca archeological dal cielo 1945/1957 by Francesca Franchin Radcliffe)

Referring to the photographs taken by the RAF for military and intelligence operations, Bradford reports that: ‘It was originally intended, by the operational units concerned, that as the battle-line moved forward, so the air photos thus rendered non operational would be discarded and sent as ballast back to England for pulping … In the spring of 1945 it was decided to scrap everything up to a line PISA-PESARO, and eventually of course the same treatment was to be applied to all photos of France, the Balkans, Germany, etc, as soon as the war ended’. Having induced the RAF authorities to suspend the destruction of such material, deemed so important for historians, geographers, archaeologists and researchers, he persuaded Ward-Perkins of their unique value, and Ward-Perkins went on to make significant use of aerial photography when undertaking the South Etruria survey in the 1950s.

What happened to the aerial photographs?

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Courtesy BSR Administrative Archive

In this letter Ward-Perkins (writing to the BSR’s Honorary General Secretary Evelyn Shaw in London) attests to the ‘archaeological value’ of the RAF aerial photographs, that had been just moved from San Severo to the Allied Forces Headquarters in Rome. He suggests that the collection be distributed amongst Rome’s foreign institutes, after the completion of the selection conducted by Bradford with the assistance of RAF personnel over the Summer and the Autumn 1945. In a letter addressed by Bradford to Ward-Perkins in December 1945, he says:

‘A total of 2,058,000 prints were taken over from HQ. MAAF of which about 1/3 were selected as essential. These are now crated and stored in several repositories, ie. the British and French Schools, the American Academy and the Swedish Institute.’ Ward-Perkins secures for the BSR the RAF aerial photographs concerned with central and southern Italy, that were arranged in nearly 2,000 boxes for a total of approximately 233,000 prints. In 1974 an agreement between the BSR and the Italian Ministry of Education, allowed the transfer of this remarkable collection to the Aerofototeca Nazionale, ICCD on permanent loan, acknowledging this institution as its natural place for conservation and access. Those deposited with the American Academy were also taken over by the Aerofototeca Nazionale in 1966. In 1980 the set of the French School (Ecole Française de Rome) reached the Centre Camiille Jullian at Aix-en-Provence and the aerial views of Greece were handed over to the British School at Athens soon after the war ended. At the same time, Bradford managed to select and secure a set for the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, where he was appointed Assistant Curator in 1947.

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The original boxes in which the aerial photographs were stored. Photo courtesy Aerofototeca Nazionale, ICCD.

We are eager to continue our collaboration with the Aerofototeca Nazionale, ICCD, and other international partners for future projects to highlight the importance of these collections.

You can listen to the event Here: https://youtu.be/xxePViG2hDo

Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist) and Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager)

 

 

Ward-Perkins permanent exhibition opens at Castelnuovo di Porto for the Giornata Nazionale del Paesaggio

Today, on the occasion of the Giornata Nazionale del Paesaggio, a permanent display of photographs from the BSR Collections will be opened in the Sale della Rocca Colonna – with the room being dedicated to former BSR Director and pioneer of landscape archaeology John Bryan Ward-Perkins – at Castelnuovo di Porto. You can read more in this week’s feature in La Repubblica, or in the press release.

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The exhibition John Bryan Ward-Perkins, SOUTH ETRURIA SURVEY. Un’ indagine fotografica sull’Etruria meridionale negli anni ’50 e ’60 is made up of fifteen photographic prints and is curated by Elisabetta Portoghese and Valerie Scott.

This follows the photographic exhibition Castelnuovo Fotografia in September, an initiative curated by Elisabetta Portoghese, in which a selection of photographs of excavations and archaeological surveys carried out in the area of Castelnuovo di Porto as part of the South Etruria Survey project was exhibited in a three-day event.

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Ward-Perkins’ South Etruria Survey (1950s-70s) is one of the most important archaeological surveys conducted in Italy, and is pivotal for our understanding of the archaeological landscape preceding the urban expansion of Rome.

John Bryan Ward-Perkins – the BSR’s director from 1945 to 1974 – is well-known for his role as one of the World War Two Monuments Men in his capacity as Deputy Director of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives (MFA&A) Allied Sub-Commission in Italy from 1944 to early 1946.

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It was in his capacity as a Monuments Man that Ward-Perkins was initially approached by John Bradford, a pioneer in landscape archaeology and aerial photography for research and scientific purposes. John Bradford was an English historian from Christ Church College, Oxford, who was recruited as photo interpreter in 1943 by the Mediterranean Allied Photographic Reconnaissance Wing (MAPRW) based in San Severo, a small village in Southern Italy (Puglia).

After inducing the RAF authorities to suspend the destruction of their photographs taken for military and intelligence operations, deemed so important for historians, geographers, archaeologists and researchers, Bradford persuaded Ward-Perkins of their unique value, and Ward-Perkins went on to make significant use of aerial photography when undertaking the South Etruria survey.

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For further reading see Christopher Smith’s ‘J.B. Ward-Perkins, the BSR and the Landscape Tradition in Post-War Italian Archaeology’ in PBSR 86 (2018), pp. 271-92.

All images courtesy BSR Photographic Archive (Ward-Perkins Collection, South Etruria Series)

 

From conflict to peace. Photographs from the John Bryan Ward-Perkins collection

The use of photography to document conflicts and atrocities committed during wars has always been a powerful means to raise public awareness and build momentum towards collective actions, either for the protection of the civilian population or for cultural heritage.

No surprise, then, that the display of photographs from the J.B. Ward-Perkins War Damage series alongside images of contemporary conflicts at the Cultural Heritage protection event recently organised at the British Embassy, triggered a series of questions relating to the urgency and importance of collecting and archiving memories during war time to build best practices for the future and preserve social and cultural legacies.

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Firenze, Ponte S. Trinità, Autunno by G. Caccini, 1944-1946, Ward-Perkins Collection, War Damage Series.

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Itri, S. Maria, campanile, 1943-1946, Ward-Perkins Collection, War Damage Series.

This invaluable photographic collection also piqued the interest of the MuseumPasseier, which has used some of these images in the exhibition Who protects Art in War?, launched in San Leonardo in Passiria in late September.

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The photographs from the War Damage Series were taken or collected by J.B. Ward-Perkins as Deputy Director of the MFA&A (Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives) Sub-Commission for Italy. Nearly 1,100 silver gelatin prints documenting damage to Italian monuments throughout Italy during World War II, spanning the period 1943-1946, are available for consultation on our Digital Collections website.

It was Ward-Perkins’ academic training and knowledge of archaeology and topography that led him to understand the potential value of the material produced during the war for scholarly research. Not only did he secure a copy of the photographs of war damage for the BSR but also over a million air photographs taken by the Royal Air Force, now on permanent loan at the Aerofototeca (ICCD), and a set of maps of Italy produced by the British military. He also left his library, his archive and a collection of over 40,000 images to the BSR.

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John Bryan Ward-Perkins, courtesy of the Ward-Perkins family.

Among these images, it is worth mentioning those that form the South Etruria Survey (1950s-1970s) collection, one of the most important archaeological surveys conducted in Italy, pivotal for our understanding of the archaeological landscape preceding the urban expansion of Rome. These images have drawn the attention of two local communities, Calcata and Castelnuovo di Porto, and led to the installation of two exhibitions.

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Formello, district, Roman road paved with blocks of tufa, the Ponte San Silvestro road, 1954-1968, Ward-Perkins Collection, South Etruria Series.

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Near Belmonte, Castelnuovo di Porto region, 1954-1968, Ward-Perkins Collection, South Etruria Series.

The Calcata exhibition was preceded by a workshop analysing the issue of continuity-discontinuity of urban forms in ancient times with a particular focus on central pre-Roman Italy and the case of Falerii and Volsinii as a consequence of the military events of 264 and 241 BC.

The continuity-discontinuity of ancient times was used as a case study to mirror the events that occurred in the same territory many centuries later, through a royal decree issued in 1935, stating that the village of Calcata should cease to exist. To document the changes (as well as what didn’t change), nearly 50 photographs were selected by the Comune di Calcata in collaboration with other Italian institutions and shown in two exhibitions, the latter of which is still on display at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia until 3 December.

 

Calcata exhibition at Museo nazionale Etrusco Di Villa Giulia, courtesy of Museo Nazionale Etrusco

At Castelnuovo Fotografia, an initiative curated by Elisabetta Portoghese, a selection of photographs of excavations and archaeological surveys carried out in the area of Castelnuovo di Porto as part of the South Etruria Survey project were exhibited in a three-day event at the end of September alongside other contemporary photographers.

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All in all, a year of successful initiatives and dynamism around the John Bryan Ward-Perkins photographic collection, which follows the reprinting of some early photographs from the Ashby and the Parker collections on the occasion of the exhibition Appia self-portrait. Il mito dell’Appia nella fotografia d’autore launched this year at the end of June.

 

Appia Self-portrait exhibition opening in June 2018 (photos by Alessandra Giovenco)

 

Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist)

 

 

 

 

 

BSR at the Sheffield Digital Humanities Congress

With eighteen sessions and three plenary talks, the biennial Digital Humanities Congress (Sheffield, 6-8 September 2018) presented a broad range of international projects and initiatives, highlighting technical solutions as well as considering critical theory and new perspectives and illustrating the enormous potential of digital media.

Clockwise from top left: Patrick O’Keeffe using digital eye-tracking technology in Rome’s baroque churches (photo by Michael Snelling); image from the John Marshall Archive research project website (courtesy BSR Photographic Archive); computer visualisation (courtesy Portus Project); image from the Ward-Perkins photographic archive (courtesy BSR Photographic Archive).

We showcased a selection of BSR projects representing the breadth and range of our interests: Graeme Earl (King’s College London), spoke about the linking of creative digital practices to architectural studies and augmented reality; Eleonora Gandolfi (University of Southampton) on the archaeology of Portus and the related MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses); Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist) on creating a Library and Archive digital portal; and Patrick O’Keeffe (BSR Giles Worsley Rome Fellow 2017-18) on eye-tracking architecture.

The Library and Archive’s Digital Humanities Project aims to present our digital initiatives in a single portal, facilitating access, engaging with a wider public, generating interactive and collaborative research and integrating local and external resources. Many of our concerns were addressed in the presentations as seen below.

Sustainability

This has been an important issue for us since 2009 and is still today one of our priorities.

The problem of the funding and sustainability of digital projects and websites was addressed in the presentation by Jamie McLaughlin (University of Sheffield) who outlined a provocative and innovative solution suggesting that websites should be ‘retired’ when the funding has run out, stripped  down to the essential features, eliminating ‘bells and whistles’ but continuing to allow researchers access to the data.

He also suggested that websites ‘die’ if funding does not provide for long-term development, enhancement and maintenance. In our presentation we observed that projects dependent on individuals as opposed to institutions are at risk of obsolescence and neglect.

Metadata Curation

In the past, the quantity of metadata has often prevailed over quality on the assumption that the more we digitise, the better. However, here at the BSR we have maintained from the outset that high quality metadata is essential to facilitate high quality research.

Jo Pugh (The National Archives, Kew) questioned the merits of long descriptions of archival records and how they influence research.

Patrizia Rebulla (Archivio Storico Ricordi, Milan) discussed the role of the archivist and that of the researcher which, for them, should be distinct – the time (and cost) of cataloguing should be carefully assessed.

Data Model

The integration of our digital content originating from varying sources – our Information Library System (ILS) and Archival Management Software – is a challenge that we are addressing.

In describing the Casa Ricordi archive project, Patrizia Rebulla raised many issues on the importance of mapping data and ontologies as well as creating a robust and fit-for-purpose data model.

Standards

Another priority for us has always been the adoption of international standards for cataloguing and publishing digital content to ensure interoperability.

Fiona Candlin (Birkbeck College) highlighted the difficulty when national standards do not exist, and the problems their project encountered attempting to bring together information from 4,000 UK museums, the data of which was either inconsistent or incomplete or both.

Digital literacy

The use or misuse of digital data by researchers has raised the issue of digital literacy and the importance of teaching students how to critically evaluate and analyse digital content, given ‘the abundance and lack, at the same time, of meaningful quantity and meaningless repetition’, as pointed out by Elizabeth Williamson (University of Exeter) and Bob Shoemaker (University of Sheffield) who described strengths and weaknesses of the Digital Panopticon website

Crowdsourcing

Community engagement is another aspect of our Digital Humanities strategy. The attempt to create a scholarly community through the participation in a research project on our collections has already been made through the John Marshall Archive Project website which is currently accessible only to the research team. This is a perfect example of where crowdsourcing will be able to add real value to a research project.

Crowdsourcing tools were a frequent topic throughout the conference, giving us useful case studies that will inform our decision on how we might develop this practice in the future. The potential of crowdsourcing platforms in helping institutions enhance digital content and the conversations generated by the user engagement experience was addressed in Mia Ridge’s (The British Library) presentation.

Impact and engagement

The Congress ended with fireworks! Sarah Kenderdine (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) enthralled the audience with her extraordinary exhibitions in Australia and Asia using the latest technology and augmented reality to engage museum visitors in a heightened, interactive experience, for example using motion-capture technology with Kung Fu masters  https://vimeo.com/163153865

motion visualisation.jpg

The conference gave us much food for thought which is helping us to understand the digital landscape and inform the positioning of the BSR in the digital world today.

 

By the Library and Archive team: Valerie Scott (Head Librarian), Beatrice Gelosia (Deputy Librarian), Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).