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.

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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

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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).

Postcards & Photographs #2

I arrived at the BSR to study vedute, (highly detailed cityscapes), maps and postcards of the monuments of Rome, using Peter Greenaway’s film Belly of an Architect (1986) as a vehicle for investigation. Weaving a narrative of power and politics, Belly of an Architect is presented as a sequence of postcard images of Rome, that alternate with actual shots in the style of the postcards. Greenaway originally intended to trace a route through the city, structured almost like a Situationist dérive, by using postcards chosen for their perspective, each of which connected a monument in the foreground with another in the distance. For example, by using a postcard of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo, in which one could find in the background a small image of a part of the Vittoriano, the next scene would be set in Piazza Venezia, and if in that postcard one could glimpse the Colosseum in the background, then the next scene would take place there, and so on. When films use postcards and texts these things are always mediated by the filmmaker’s intentions. It’s like the actors. They are both themselves acting and the part they play. Showing postcards in the film is like characters talking directly to camera or when actors play themselves on film.

How excited I was after I introduced my research at the BSR and the director told us about Eugénie Strong’s postcard collection in the BSR archives. When I originally planned this research, I intended to collect my own tourist postcards of the monuments of Rome, but I found Strong’s far more seductive and conducive to the kind of ‘postcard’ tour I was looking for, one that is entirely subjective, blurs place and personal history and, speaks to each of us in a different way, as if whispering in our ears about forgotten experiences, adventures, romances, individuals.

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 Anfiteatro Flavio, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

Like a postcard itself, that arrives with no return address, and only a cryptic comment, postmark and stamp to claim its origins, is the postcard collection from the 1910s and 1920s of Eugénie Strong, the first assistant director of the BSR. The postcards are filed in albums and boxes according to place, like a map that is not yet made. The Rome album begins with Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s (1720-1778) depictions of the monuments of Rome, and ends with the 1911 Ethnographic Exhibition to celebrate 50 years of Italy’s unification, that shows different pavilions from different regions of Italy for the World’s Fair that took place in the Valle Giulia. In fact the BSR building was designed by Edwin Lutyens and constructed as the British pavilion for that grand exhibition which is why it is in the English baroque style, double columns as pilasters on the walls and a neoclassical portico at the front.

Piranesi’s most famous built project is the piazza and church for the Cavalieri di Malta on the Aventine Hill. This is the famous portal with a keyhole that sights the dome of St Peter’s. Strong’s collection includes a postcard of the garden, as if we, like Alice, have entered through the keyhole.

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Cavalieri di Malta, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection) 

The album continues with a collection entitled Rome Disappeared.

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Roma Sparita, postcard album (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

One of my favourites is this one that shows La corsa dei Barberi, a horserace along the Corso, that took place at the time of the Carnival. It shows the Piazzo del Popolo and either very small horses, or else artistic licence in widening the street, and, since it depicts a time prior to its construction, no Vittoriano monument at the other end of the axis.

 

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Corso dei Barberi, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

Most of the postcards are from collections that were never sent, but collected as sets, interspersed with a very few that were sent to her by friends, colleagues or scholars with requests. For example, each year her counterpart at the American Academy would send her a Christmas postcard, in exchange for one she had sent. Another favourite (not shown here) was of a stone frieze, of a pig, a horse and a cow with the note on the back: nice to see our old friends. What was the narrative behind this? Was this a favourite place to visit? And where was it? In the Forum? Elsewhere?

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Eugénie Strong’s address, prior to assuming the Assistant Director post at the BSR (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

 

Renée Tobe (Paul Mellon Centre Rome Fellow 2017-18)

Postcards & Photographs #1

The early years of the BSR were dominated by two great figures. The contribution of Thomas Ashby, the BSR’s third Director, to the study of photography and topography has been well documented – see Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar Janet Wade’s post about her research following in the footsteps of Thomas Ashby on the via Flaminia, and my own recent blog on the many faces of Ashby.

However, the collections built up by his contemporaneous Assistant Director, Eugénie Strong, remain largely unexplored.

Three cupboards in the Photographic Archive hold the Eugénie Strong Collection. When you turn the key to open these cupboards you are suddenly grabbed by her personality which is reflected by the kind of material – photographs and postcards – she was to collect and assemble throughout her life.

Most of the photographs are testimony to her interest in Art History, ranging from Roman and Greek sculpture to medieval, Renaissance and Baroque painting. The photographic collection, bequeathed to the BSR after her death, includes many examples of nineteenth and early twentieth century photographs (all in perfect condition) taken by notable European photographers and needs careful examination before being re-arranged and made available for consultation and research.

The same applies to her impressive collection of European postcards, mainly relating to Italy and many with written comments on the back. Some of these are loose and arranged by country or continents (Africa, Asia), while the rest is neatly organised into nineteen albums.

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Eugénie Strong in her role as BSR Librarian in the Main Reading Room

Eugénie Strong (1860-1943, née Sellers) had long been regarded as one of the most brilliant academics in the field of Roman sculpture, even before taking on the post of BSR Assistant Director and Librarian in 1909. Former Librarian at Chatsworth and Fellow of Girton College, Cambridge, she worked closely with Thomas Ashby when he was BSR Director from 1906 to 1925.

The astonishing number of images they gathered – Ashby taking photographs himself, with Strong collecting them from various sources – shows a keen interest in the value of visual culture at the beginning of the twentieth century. Their intention was not limited to pursuing their own research, but was concerned with developing a reference collection for the benefit of current and future BSR award-holders.

In addition to her image collection, there is also correspondence with Evelyn Shaw, BSR Honorary General Secretary, and various members of the Faculty of Archaeology, History and Letters (FAHL) in the course of her administration of the institution alongside Ashby. Remarkable was her role in coordinating the move of the BSR from Palazzo Odescalchi to the new building in Valle Giulia in 1916, while Ashby was engaged on the Italian front driving the British Red Cross ambulance. Not to mention all the responsibilities involved in the running of a Library!

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The BSR façade during the building works (started in 1912 and completed in 1916)

It is no surprise therefore that she played an important role in supporting and encouraging all BSR award-holders, both in the Humanities and in the Fine Arts. The more we read about her through our past records, the more intelligible the picture of a resilient personality that made the pair with Ashby and contributed so much to raising and consolidating the BSR’s profile, until they both left in 1925.

 

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Eugénie Strong in the centre of the picture surrounded by BSR scholars
Back row: Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Eugénie Strong, Colin Gill (Rome Scholar in Painting), Mrs Hardiman, Alfred Hardiman (Rome Scholar in Sculpture), Unknown
Middle row: Miss Jamison, Miss Makin, Winifred Knights (Rome Scholar in Painting)
Front row: F.O. Lawrence (Rome Scholar in Architecture), Job Nixon (Rome Scholar in Engraving), Unknown

 

This year’s Paul Mellon Centre Rome Fellow Renée Tobe has been delving into some of these Archive collections from the BSR’s early years, and in the next blog post she will reveal some of the treasures she has found in our collections.

 

Alessandra Giovenco (BSR Archivist)

Images courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archives