In the footsteps of Ashby

On Saturday 21 October 2017 the Museo Archeologico Comune di Segni hosted the inauguration of an exhibition of a series of drawings by Edward Dodwell (from Sir John Soane’s Museum) and photographs from the BSR Archives taken by Thomas Ashby and Father Peter Paul Mackey.

In the late 19th century Father Peter Paul Mackey visited the small town of Segni, 50km south of Rome and a day’s walk from Palestrina where he was probably based for his weekend photographic excursions. He was drawn to the city by its enormous ‘Cyclopic’ walls hewn from the limestone mountain and the well preserved Roman temple of Juno Moneta.

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Segni, postern under citadel (with figure). Photo courtesy of the BSR Archives, Peter Paul Mackey Collection.

A few years later, undoubtedly inspired by one of Mackey’s lectures at the British and American Archaeological Society of Rome, Thomas Ashby, director of the BSR between 1906 and 1925, also visited the town to photograph its magnificent walls and gateways.

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Segni, city wall and Porta dello Steccato. Photo courtesy of the BSR Archives, Thomas Ashby Collection.

In 2012 the BSR began the Segni Project together with the town archaeological museum which over the past five years has conducted a series of excavations as well as hosted conferences, workshops, exhibitions and the ongoing project for the recovery of a monumental nymphaeum.

It is therefore with great pleasure that the BSR is supporting an exhibition of Mackey’s and Ashby’s photographs on display at the Museo Archeologico di Segni.

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Photographs from the BSR Archives on display at the exhibition (Photos: Stephen Kay)

Inaugurated on the occasion of the annual ‘Sagra del Marrone’, the evening saw a large number of visitors to the museum following a presentation of the accompanying catalogue by Dott. Enrico Benelli (CNR-ISMA). It was also an opportunity for the new director Professor Stephen Milner and his family to visit one of the sites of ongoing BSR archaeological research. The success of the exhibition owes much to the work of the BSR’s archivist Alessandra Giovenco and that of the librarians, so it was wonderful that BSR Librarian Valerie Scott and Beatrice Gelosia were also present for the occasion.

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Stephen Milner gives an introductory presentation (Photo: Stephen Kay)

The exhibition at the Museo Archeologico di Segni will continue through until the end of the year. For more details see www.museosegni.it The BSR is grateful for the continued support of the Comune di Segni and its mayor Prof.ssa Maria Assunta Bocardelli, as well as the director of the Museo Archeologico di Segni Dott.ssa Federica Colaiacomo and the previous museum director and BSR Research Fellow Dott. Francesco Maria Cifarelli. The project is extremely grateful to Mr and Mrs Denny Custer who have generously supported the work of the BSR Archaeological Officer over the past years and made possible the scanning and reproduction of the photographs of Segni by Thomas Ashby.

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Team BSR enjoying the ‘Sagra del Marrone’ (Photo: Stephen Milner)

Stephen Kay (Archaeological Officer)

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An interview with our Archive interns

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Cristina Iannaccone and Simona Giordano at the BSR

The 2016-17 academic year has seen an incredible fervor of activity in the BSR Archives, ranging from hosting students from Sapienza – Università di Roma to carrying out physical and intellectual work on some important sections of the BSR Administrative Archive. We are delighted to have formalised a collaboration with Sapienza – Università di Roma, who are sending us enthusiastic students to work at the BSR for a period as interns. We have also supported the work of a student from Università Cà Foscari in Venice, thanks to the invaluable input of Professor Paul G. Weston, newly-appointed member of our Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters. Archivists require both technical and historical knowledge and I know that the BSR is the right place for these skills to be put into practice!

Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist)

We interviewed two recent Archive interns, Cristina and Simona, to find out what they have been up to.

Cristina Iannaccone

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Where and what are you currently studying?

I am studying for my MA in History and Library/Archive Management at the Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia in collaboration with the Università di Padova. The course is designed for those who wish to become archivists and librarians, developing specialist skills in the treatment of material conserved in archives and libraries (whether they be historical or contemporary, public or private).

Sono iscritta al corso di Laurea magistrale in Storia e gestione del patrimonio archivistico e bibliografico presso l’Università Ca’ Foscari di Venezia, attivato in convenzione con l’Università di Padova. Esso forma archivisti e bibliotecari fornendo competenze specialistiche nella trattazione dei materiali conservati presso archivi e biblioteche, siano essi storici o contemporanei, pubblici o privati.

What are you working on at the BSR?

As part of my university training I started an internship at the BSR Archive in March 2017. I have worked on the reconditioning and inventorying of administrative records pertaining to a particular set of awards, ‘Grants in Aid of Research’. This work required me to consult the Reports of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters.

Nel mese di marzo 2017 ho intrapreso il tirocinio curriculare presso l’Archivio dell’Accademia britannica. Ho portato avanti un lavoro di ricondizionamento e inventariazione di scatole contenenti fascicoli dell’archivio amministrativo, relativi ad una delle Borse di studio assegnate ai ricercatori dalla British School at Rome: i Grants in Aid of Research. Per le informazioni necessarie allo svolgimento del lavoro sono stati consultati i Reports della Faculty of Archeology, History and Letters.

What have you learnt from your experience at the BSR?

I believe that professional experience is essential for anyone wanting to become an archivist or librarian. My internship at the BSR was extremely useful and formative; I learnt so much through this hands-on experience which cannot be gained through university study alone. Furthermore, working with the Library and Archive staff at the BSR has shown me the importance of carrying out your work with passion and tenacity.

Ritengo che per la formazione di archivisti e bibliotecari un periodo di esperienza professionale guidata sia imprescindibile. Il mio tirocinio presso la BSR è stato proficuo e altamente formativo; ho imparato tanto attraverso un approccio pratico di cui difettavano in parte i miei studi universitari. Inoltre, ho appreso dai professionisti che hanno guidato la mia esperienza l’importanza di portare avanti il proprio lavoro con passione e tenacia.

What are your plans for the future?

This internship has affirmed my desire to work in an environment like the BSR that allows me to combine the roles of archivist and researcher. Having said this, I am not dismissing the possibility of carrying out further training in the field of archive management, for example through further study in the digital sector.

Il tirocinio svolto ha confermato ulteriormente la mia volontà di lavorare in un ambiente che, come la BSR, permette di stabilire un rapporto di interazione diretta tra archivista e ricercatore. Non intendo tuttavia tralasciare la possibilità di continuare la mia formazione in ambito archivistico, partecipando a Corsi di specializzazione o Master inerenti anche al settore della digitalizzazione.

 

Simona Giordano

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Where and what are you currently studying?

I am currently in my second and final year of my MA in Archival and Library Science (Department of Humanities) at Sapienza – Università di Roma.

Sono attualmente iscritta al secondo ed ultimo anno del corso di Laurea Magistrale in Archivistica e Biblioteconomia (Dipartimento di Lettere) presso l’Università ‘La Sapienza’, a Roma. 

What are you working on at the BSR?

I am working on the ‘Visual Art’ files located in the ‘Awards and Funding Bodies’ section of the BSR Administrative Archive. More specifically I am looking at the sub-series that deals with the various ‘Rome Scholarship’ awards in Painting, Sculpture, and Engraving, and at the ‘Abbey Major Scholarship in Painting’: my job has been to rearrange and label the files and to edit the inventory of administrative documents relating to former BSR award-holders.

Mi sto occupando della serie ‘Visual Art’ del fondo ‘Awards and Funding Bodies’, appartenente all’Archivio Amministrativo della BSR. In particolare sto lavorando alle sottoserie relative alle borse di studio ‘Rome Scholarship’ in ‘Pittura’, ‘Scultura’ e ‘Incisione’ e alle borse di studio in ‘Pittura’ del premio denominato ‘Abbey Major Scholarship in Painting’: il mio intervento consiste nelle operazioni di ordinamento e etichettatura di fascicoli e nella redazione di un inventario dei documenti  amministrativi degli ex borsisti della BSR.

What have you learnt from your experience at the BSR?

As a student of Archival Science, this experience at the BSR is a great opportunity for me to put what I have learned in my university course into practice in a stimulating work environment. To be able to handle documents and files and evaluate them in a real-life context has helped me to understand how an archive really functions, and to appreciate the difficulties that can arise when managing an archive like the BSR’s that houses such a vast array of materials.

Come studentessa di archivistica l’esperienza presso la BSR è un’importante opportunità per mettere in pratica gli insegnamenti del mio corso di laurea in un ambiente di lavoro stimolante e sereno. Toccare con mano carte, documenti e fascicoli, contribuendo a valorizzarli: attività utili a capire il funzionamento di un archivio e ad affrontarne le problematiche, specialmente all’interno di un ente come la BSR, dalla struttura articolata e dotato di un considerevole patrimonio documentaristico.

What are your plans for the future?

I would like to become an archivist! Before my MA in Archival Science. I obtained a BA in Cultural and Linguistics Mediation: not once have I regretted this change of direction, and every day my passion for archives is growing. All too often, the world of archives remains obscure, and there is a danger of it not being appreciated as it should. I hope that in the not too distant future society will learn to pay more attention to its past.

Mi piacerebbe diventare archivista! Prima di iscrivermi al corso di Laurea in Archivistica e Biblioteconomia ho conseguito la laurea triennale in Mediazione Culturale e Linguistica: aver cambiato oggetto di studio non solo non mi ha fatto pentire della mia scelta, ma anzi mi ha indirizzato verso quella che con il tempo sta diventando una grande passione. Spesso il mondo degli archivi è sconosciuto ai più, e altrettanto spesso rischia di non essere valorizzato come dovrebbe: spero in un futuro non troppo lontano di poter far parte di una società più attenta al suo passato. 


Text by Cristina Iannaccone and Simona Giordano. Translation by Natalie Arrowsmith. Photos by Alice Marsh.

BSR summer summary

As the summer draws to a close, we reflect on the hard work and events that have gone on at the BSR over the summer months, and look forward to the advent of a new academic year ahead.

An exciting new addition to our facilities inaugurated the summer at the BSR – we were delighted to add a new fully-facilitated flat to our residence. As a result, we were able to host three more researchers over the course of the summer. The creation of the new flat coincides with the re-organisation of our office space over the past few months: our finance, communications and administration have recently been relocated in spacious new offices, and we now have new lab facilities for our archaeologists.

A huge thank you and congratulations to our brilliant Library team, who worked tirelessly over the summer on the annual update of the Library collection. This task saw some 100,000 volumes accounted for, and our ever-growing collection was reordered, ready for the return of our Library members in September.

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The super Library team hard at work on the annual summer update

Each summer, the BSR welcomes back into its fold former Fine Arts award-holders to make use of the studio space. In addition this year we hosted three artists on the Mead Rome PhD Studio Residency (in collaboration with University of the Arts London) as well as one David & Mary Forshaw Newcastle Residency. Many of the artists opened up their studios to other residents and staff to take a peak at their work in progress.

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The first half of September saw another successful Summer School. Each year, a group of undergraduate students studying Ancient History, Archaeology and Classics join us for an intensive two-week course led by Cary Fellow Robert Coates-Stephens, and Ed Bispham (Rome Scholar Humanities 1994–5). Each day’s visits took on a different theme, preceded by an introductory lecture at the BSR, and covering various elements of the city and its surroundings. The students left Rome with a comprehensive understanding of the city under their belts, after a fantastic fortnight – not even a biblical deluge at Tivoli’s Villa Adriana could dampen their spirits! Thanks to the tireless efforts of Robert, Ed and Stefania Peterlini (Permissions Officer), the group gained privileged access to a vast range of Rome’s most fascinating sites, and many commented that the course will continue to inspire them throughout their studies.

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2017 Summer School group with Robert Coates-Stephens and Ed Bispham (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

Meanwhile in Pompeii BSR Archaeology Officer Stephen Kay and his team and colleagues from 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 completed the final season of excavation at Porta Nola (Pompeii) — you can find out more about the latest discoveries in our previous blog.

The summer concluded with a visit from a group of members of the Attingham Trust. The Trust offers specialised courses on historic houses, their collections and settings, and on the history and contents of English royal palaces. This year their Study Programme came to Rome for the first time and was organised by former award-holder Dr Andrew Moore (Paul Mellon Rome Fellow  2006-7) in association with the BSR. The participants — curators, architects and art collectors — have visited several palazzi and villas in Rome and Naples as part of their ‘Attingham Grand Tour’. We were  thrilled to welcome back to the BSR, as a participant of this study programme, Allison Goudie (Rome Award 2012-13) who since her BSR award has worked in various roles at the National Gallery and the National Trust.

The group were treated to a lecture by BSR Director Christopher Smith, and a tour of the Library and Archives, including some closed access material relating to the Grand Tour.

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The Attingham Study group view rare books in the Library (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

 

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The Attingham Study group (photo by Antonio Palmieri)

The evening concluded with a lively dinner, bringing the BSR dining room back to full capacity after the summer months. This special dinner was also the first in residence for incoming Director Stephen Milner, who formally steps into the position at the beginning of October — benvenuto Stephen! We look forward to the start of the new academic year and the exciting programme of events to come.

Original photographic prints from the BSR Photographic Archive on display at Palazzo Poli in Rome

On 16 May our Library team attended the opening of a photographic exhibition that sees the participation of 30 Italian and foreign institutions in Rome, including many members of the URBiS Library Network Catalogue.

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The list of all the institutions in Rome both Italian and foreign participating in the exhibition

The exhibition shows more than 300 photographs arranged by theme in alphabetical order: Acque, Bellezza, Cronaca, Danni, Esplorazioni, Feste, Giochi, Habitat, Incontri, Lavoro, Mostre, Nudo, Oltremare, Potere, Quotidianità, Radici, Spettacoli, Trasporti, Urbanistica, Viaggi, Zibaldone. This approach, presenting the photographs according to theme rather than chronology, results in a more evocative and inspiring experience for the public and demonstrates the diversity and richness of the photographic collections across the participant institutions.

The title of the initiative stems from the exhibition’s three distinguishing elements:

  • the alphabetical order in which the images are presented (alfabeto)
  • the nature of the objects on display – exclusively photographs (fotografico)
  • the provenance of the collections, all from public and private institutions in Rome (romano)

We are very proud to have participated in the exhibition by contributing some original photographs from our Photographic Archive: five original albumen prints from the John Henry Parker Collection have been selected for the section Acque, Danni, Potere, Urbanistica and Viaggi, as well as two silver gelatin prints from the John Bryan Ward-Perkins series ‘War Damage’ documenting the destruction of the San Lorenzo basilica during World War II.

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The exhibition catalogue showing images documenting the destruction of the basilica of San Lorenzo during World War II

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Attendees at the exhibition opening

The accompanying catalogue includes more than 200 images and a description of each item is provided by the curators of the photographic collections.

We are very grateful to Maria Francesca Bonetti (Istituto Centrale per la Grafica (ICG)) and Clemente Marsicola (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo e la Documentazione (ICCD)) for having dedicated their efforts to setting up this highly collaborative project.

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Audience attending the presentation of the exhibition

On a personal note, I would like to express my gratitude to Beatrice Gelosia, Deputy Librarian, for her invaluable help and support throughout the preparation of both the texts published in the catalogue and the photographic material selected for the event.

Do not miss the opportunity to go and visit this outstanding exhibition, on display until the beginning of July:

Venue: Palazzo Poli, Via Poli, 54 (Fontana di Trevi) – Rome

Date: 17 May-2 July 2017

Time: Tuesday-Sunday, 14.00-19.00

Free entrance


Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist)

‘Hidden mysteries of those receptacles of the mighty dead’

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‘Hidden mysteries of those receptacles of the mighty dead’

From a letter in the Smeaton Archive presented publicly for the first time by BSR Honorary Fellow Professor John Osborne at the BSR in February.

There could have been no speaker, no venue, and no moment more appropriate for last month’s lecture Charles Smeaton, John Henry Parker and the earliest photography in the Roman catacombs than Professor John Osborne, at the BSR, in 2017.

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Professor John Osborne, il nostro Canadese…. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

150 years into the Canadian Confederation, Professor Osborne ingeniously revealed a (rare) Canadian aspect on early medieval Rome by shedding light on the earliest known catacomb photographs, which were taken by the Canadian photographer Charles Smeaton – known as il Canadese – for the British antiquarian, John Henry Parker. Between 1864 and 1877 Parker spent his winters in Rome where he amassed a vast documentary photographic record of the city’s historic monuments, intended for both scholarly and public audiences. In the pre-electric age, photography in the Roman catacombs at first posed an insurmountable technical problem for Parker’s photographers, due to the total absence of natural light; but in January 1867 (150 years before il nostro Canadese’s BSR lecture) Smeaton overcame this difficulty through the use of a recent invention, magnesium wire.

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Small exhibition of photographs from the BSR John Henry Parker Collection. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

 

The British and American Archaeological Society, founded by Parker in 1865, owned a collection of these important photographs, which in some instances constitute a unique source of information regarding the nature and condition of the catacombs and their murals. These became part of the BSR’s Photographic Archive in 1926, and have recently been catalogued and digitized (they can be found on our online catalogue URBiS www.urbis-libnet.org/vufind/). Valerie Scott and the library staff demonstrated the rich research value of the BSR’s library and archive resources by assembling an accompanying exhibition of the catacomb photographs in the Parker collection in the adjacent foyer.

John’s lecture led to the attribution of around twenty-five photographs to Smeaton, but also broke new ground by sharing Smeaton’s florid, yet unsettling, eyewitness account of the process, recently rediscovered in a family archive and presented here publicly for the first time. The letter records how Smeaton carried ‘into those dismal dungeons coil upon coil of sunshine in the shape of magnesium wire’ to obtain photographs of murals in the chapel of the catacomb of Priscilla. Smeaton, alone in the dark, exclaimed how the marble slab of a tomb fell at his feet ‘and with it a portion of the bones of its tenant’ and described his ‘terror inexpressible’ when he ‘found his fingers in the eyeholes of a human skull’! John located the horror felt at being underground with the bodies of the dead within a topos, stretching back to St Jerome, passing through Bosio’s band of Counter-Reformation brothers, and reaching the ghoulish gothic fascination of Victorian England.

 

It was a compelling account of Smeaton’s immensely significant, but hitherto mysteriously hidden, contribution in demonstrating definitively the advantages of photography in creating a historical record: a moment from which ‘there has been no turning back’. We left convinced, inspired, yet a little relieved to climb the stairs from the Lecture Theatre and return above ground to a glass of prosecco.

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‘No turning back’.  The heir to Smeaton, award-holder Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)

 

This lecture’s topics, including the full text of Smeaton’s memoir, will be discussed in the Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana, 2016, to be published shortly.


Tom True (Assistant Director)

Our second century

In 1916, Assistant Director Eugenie Strong and architect Ernest Cormier briefly took up residence in the current BSR. We know a little about these early days in the building, which was by no means as complete as it is now. The east wing was missing (and not completed until the 1930s).

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Plan of the BSR with missing east wing (Courtesy of the BSR Archives)

One of the studios was the common room, and housed Thomas Ashby’s [Director 1906-25] Piranesi prints in a special cabinet. Part of the Director’s flat was the temporary kitchen. Ashby himself was at the Italian front as a volunteer ambulance driver; most of the thirty-seven men associated with the BSR, including its Italian staff, were also caught up in the war.

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The former common room – today one of our artists’ studios (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

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Thomas Ashby’s Piranesi prints on display in the common room (courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

But the building was ours, for all that it was incomplete, and its first two residents were remarkable figures. Strong — an ebullient socialite, an expert on Roman art, polymathic, and profoundly international with contacts across Europe — is relatively well known. Her immense collection of commercial photographs of art and sculpture from several periods remains an untapped part of the BSR archive; and work on her large collection of postcards merits external funding.

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Eugenie Strong (Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive)

Ernest Cormier stands for another aspect of the BSR. He was a Canadian architect, and designed not only the central buildings of McGill University but also Canada’s Supreme Court in Ottawa. Our Commonwealth roots and our commitment to architecture, and to excellence, come together in the figure of Cormier.

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Supreme Court of Ottawa, designed by Ernest Cormier – the first student to take up residence at the BSR in 1916 (Photo: Wikipedia)

It is fitting to remember Cormier as we also think this year of our departed and much-missed friend, Francesco Garofalo, who himself spent several years in Canada and who gave so much to the BSR. Francesco and his wife and fellow architect Sharon Miura worked on the extension of the BSR at the beginning of this century, including the Sainsbury Lecture Theatre, where his posthumous book of essays was presented earlier this month.

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Speakers at the launch of Whatever happened to Italian Architecture? (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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Architect Sharon Miura who managed the BSR’s Sustainable Building Project with her late husband Francesco Garofalo (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

A century on from its beginnings, the BSR’s building has never been in better shape. Thanks to my predecessor’s extension, and the recent Sustainable Building Project refurbishment programme — which Sharon Miura project-managed, with architects Studio Amati, engineers ARUP, and building contractor LO.MA — our artists are now showing their work in a temperature- and humidity-controlled gallery, our Library periodicals are in a fully refurbished basement, and we are constantly driving down energy costs.

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Work on the east wing roof during the Sustainable Building Project (Photo: Natalie Arrowsmith)

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Christopher Smith inspects the building work (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

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The refurbished artists’ studios (Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

To celebrate this, we were proud and honoured to receive a visit from our President, HRH Princess Alexandra, who launched the next phase of our Second Century Campaign. We are working to create a stable and sustainable basis for our future. We hope that as many of our members as possible will visit us next year and that all our existing friends, and many new ones, will help us continue the traditions of internationalism and excellence which have characterised the first century of the BSR and will serve us well in our second.

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HRH Princess Alexandra visiting the BSR to launch the Second Century Campaign (Photo: Thomas Toti)

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HRH Princess Alexandra with members of the Sustainable Building Project team and BSR staff and residents (Photo: Thomas Toti)

Christopher Smith (Director)

Ashby First World War photographs on tour

We have more news from the Archive this week. Friday 30 September saw the opening of the exhibition Umanita’ al fronte: la British Red Cross a San Giovanni al Natisone nella Grande Guerra at the Biblioteca di San Giovanni al Natisone.

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BSR Archivist Alessandra Giovenco speaks at the opening of Umanità al fronte.

The exhibition is made up of approximately 60 photographs from the Photographic Archive of the British School at Rome. The images were taken by the BSR’s third director Thomas Ashby during the First World War, and they give us an insight into daily life at the front. Some of these photographs were first exhibited at Palazzo Doria Pamphilj last year in collaboration with the Croce Rossa Italiana and with the generous support of the British Embassy in Rome: https://britishschoolatrome.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/ashby-and-the-first-world-war/

So far there have been 300 visitors to the exhibition, and an extensive secondary schools programme will be delivered to help students understand the key role played by the small villages in that area during the First World War. We are delighted that these photographs continue to reach new audiences, and that our Archive Project Ashby and the First World War continues to play an important role in the centenary commemoration of the First World War.

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Installation shot from Villa de Brandis.

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Guests at the exhibition opening at La Barchessa – Villa de Brandis.

 

Acknowledgements:

Exhibition curators: Fabrizia Bosco, Anita Deganutti.

Exhibition organisers: Elena Braida, Marco Pispisa.

The Comune of San Giovanni al Natisone and its mayor, Valter Braida.

Digital images and prints: Stefano Ciol.

 


 

Text by Natalie Arrowsmith (Communications Manager) and Alessandra Giovenco (Archivist).

Images by Marco Pispisa (Biblioteca Civica di San Giovanni al Natisone). More photographs of the event are available on the Biblioteca Civica di San Giovanni al Natisone Facebook page.