Collaborating for the cultural heritage of the world: FAI and the National Trust at the BSR

On Wednesday 14 September, the BSR was proud to host an event all about conservation and cultural heritage in collaboration with FAI and MiBACT, including a contribution from Italy’s Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini. Director Christopher Smith looks back on this exciting event within the context of the BSR’s wider research framework.

‘The BSR has had a long and glittering history as a promoter of conservation and heritage management. In a sense, our third Director Thomas Ashby was already speaking to this as he recorded the disappearing Campagna, and it has been a constant theme, right through to the hugely successful Herculaneum Conservation Project, directed by Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, which was important not only for its achievements, but also as a model for public-private partnerships.

The BSR’s research theme on this subject has been populated with a number of important conferences and events, and we recently added to this with an important occasion, bringing together the very best of UK and Italian experience.

The event, entitled Collaborating for the Cultural Heritage of the World: The Role of Public–Private Partnerships, was a joint event with the Italian National Trust, FAI. There were three case studies. Daniela Bruno spoke about the Parco Villa Gregoriana at Tivoli, and its restoration. The spectacular walk through the Parco is attracting record visitors, and is a testimony to the capacity of FAI to regenerate and advertise places of great beauty and importance. James Bradburne presented his experiences at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and now the Brera in Milan. His brilliant presentation showed how a gifted and determined museum director can pull a team together and set a gallery at the heart of the cultural life of a city. Finally, the BSR’s own Research Professor in Archaeology Simon Keay and Research Fellow Renato Sebastiani demonstrated the potential of the archaeological park at Portus and Ostia, right by Rome’s Fiumicino airport.


Paolo Conti (Corriere della Sera) giving his first address

The keynote was offered by Dame Fiona Reynolds, Chairman of the worldwide network of heritage and conservation charities, INTO. Her extraordinarily wide-ranging presentation of different examples of public-private partnerships across the world was held together by a clear focus on what is needed for successful heritage management – clear vision, clear roles and responsibilities, public credibility and support and long-term sustainability. In response, our two very special guests, President of FAI and BSR Honorary Fellow Andrea Carandini, and Italy’s Minister for Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, emphasised the role of international collaboration. The presence of a government minister at what Carandini described as a historic meeting confirmed the importance of this initiative in driving forward a debate about the models which can address the specific circumstances of individual projects in Italy. In concluding, Director Christopher Smith noted that Rome’s foreign academies had a seminal role in bringing together best practice and collaborating to deliver outstanding research results and sustainable heritage management.

Over the coming months, the BSR will host an important international workshop around the concept of beauty in public life, in collaboration with the British Council and think tank ResPublica; and a major conference on conservation and restoration at Portus. Stephen Kay’s international field school at Pompeii taught principles of conservation to an enthusiastic team. Several other projects are under development. From education, to practice, to policymaking, the BSR is leading the way in bringing UK expertise to bear on conservation and heritage management in Italy.’

Christopher Smith (Director)

Photos by Antonio Palmieri.

To read more about the event, see the FAI website where you can also download the PowerPoint by Dame Fiona Reynolds.

The BSR: A Second Century in Europe

BSR Director Christopher Smith on the BSR’s place in Europe

Facade cropped

The British School at Rome is a leading international humanities research institute, proudly committed to our role in Italy and in Europe.

The BSR was founded in 1901 to be a bridge between British and Italian artistic and scholarly activity and we are continuing today our mission to be a centre for interdisciplinary research excellence in the Mediterranean supporting the full range of arts, humanities and social sciences.

For over a century we have been deeply grateful for the hospitality of our Italian colleagues, and have sought to build and nurture the long friendship between our two countries.

Hundreds of artists and scholars work at the BSR every year.  Hundreds more scholars use our world-class Library.  We run over seventy public events every year showcasing leading intellectual and creative talents, from concerts to conferences, from lectures to exhibitions.

The British School at Rome Library is open again this week, as it has been for over a century, to accredited Italian and international scholars.  In the autumn, our events will continue to foster a deeper understanding of the world in which we live, its historical roots and its current predicaments.

The British School at Rome will always be proud to be in and of Europe, culturally and intellectually, and therefore, part of a globally interdependent world.

Professor Christopher Smith



La British School at Rome è uno dei più importanti istituti di ricerca al mondo in ambito umanistico. Siamo un’istituzione britannica in Italia, e la nostra intenzione è quella di rimanere in Europa.

La BSR è stata fondata nel 1901, con l’obiettivo di essere un ponte tra Gran Bretagna, Italia e Commonwealth, e la nostra missione, oggi, rimane quella di sempre: di essere un centro di ricerca interdisciplinare di eccellenza nel Mediterraneo, sostenendo e promuovendo la ricerca in tutte le discipline dei settori umanistico, artistico e delle scienze sociali.

Per più di un secolo abbiamo cercato di costruire e promuovere un’amicizia di lungo corso tra i due paesi, e siamo profondamente grati per l’ospitalità che ci è stata offerta dai nostri colleghi Italiani.

Centinaia di artisti e di studiosi lavorano ogni anno alla BSR. Altre centinaia di studiosi utilizzano la nostra Biblioteca, che costituisce una risorsa di estrema importanza a livello internazionale. Nella nostra sede ogni anno si tengono più di settanta eventi pubblici (da concerti a convegni, da conferenze a mostre), che danno l’opportunità a talenti intellettuali e creativi di mostrare le proprie capacità.

A partire da lunedì, la Biblioteca della British School at Rome sarà come al solito aperta, come lo è stata per oltre un secolo, agli studiosi Italiani e internazionali.

A partire dall’autunno, i nostri eventi continueranno a promuovere una più profonda conoscenza del mondo in cui viviamo, delle sue radici culturali e delle sue attuali situazioni difficili.

La British School at Rome sarà sempre fiera di essere in Europa e di far parte dell’Europa, culturalmente e intellettualmente, e perciò parte di un mondo interconnesso a livello globale.

Professor Christopher Smith



Images taken by Paul Barker and Sophie Hay

Notes from Australasia: Christopher Smith recounts his recent trip to New Zealand and Australia

Director Christopher Smith recently embarked on a visit to the other side of the world to reunite with friends and contacts from the BSR antipodean community. Below, he shares some memories from his trip.

‘The BSR has always been enriched by its Commonwealth connections; it was an essential part of our original foundation to be an open and broad-based international organisation and it has been a joy for me to see this in operation week after week in our community.

From time to time, it is also an important but rather thrilling task for directors to visit countries from which we receive so much, and in January and February 2016 my wife Susan and I were in New Zealand and Australia.

In Christchurch, which we had visited between the first and second of the awful earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, I was able to catch up with Enrica Sciarrino, a colleague on the Fragmentary Roman Orators Project, led by Catherine Steel in Glasgow. Enrica, artist Simon Ogden and I were welcomed by Andrew Drummond in his astonishing studio, a converted railway carriage factory. It was the first of many occasions on which it was brought home to us how rich and deep the artistic and academic culture is, and how many friends the BSR has earned worldwide.

Following a few days of private travels in the South Island – where I caught my first ever fish (and probably last if truth be told!) – we flew to Auckland for Politics and Power in the Early Roman Republic (509-264 BC) a conference organised by Jeremy Armstrong. This was a rich intellectual feast on a subject seldom covered, and it was exciting to see how many old BSR friends were there. Jeremy himself brings his Auckland students to Rome every other year. Fay Glinister and Guy Bradley were both award-holders and Kathryn Welch and Ron and Therese Ridley have been supporters for many years, and Maxine Lewis is now a new regular visitor. I am very grateful to Jeremy and the University of Auckland for supporting my visit so generously.

Away from Roman thoughts there was also the welcome opportunity to visit the BSR’s good friend Mary Kisler at the wonderfully refurbished Auckland Art Gallery. Mary has charge of the astoundingly rich historical collection, which includes an outstanding Guido Reni. Her book, Angels and Aristocrats, is a fascinating account of the arrival of European art into New Zealand.

Our next stop was Melbourne for the annual conference of the Australasian Society for Classical Studies, where I was speaking again on early Rome. An impeccably organised conference, ASCS is now in its 50th year, and demonstrates Australasian Classics is in very good health. Three particular strengths seem to me a passionate commitment to the languages of Latin and Greek, a really sharp appreciation of the nuances of politics, and a growing base in late Roman and Byzantine studies. It was good to see many former BSR award-holders and City of Rome students too.

Christopher lecturing to a packed crowd

Christopher giving a lecture at the ASCS annual conference.

Melbourne has a particularly strong network of BSR award-holders and friends and a chance for people to catch up and make new connections was afforded by a reception very kindly hosted for us by Di Bresciani at her wonderful home. Di and Lino’s support of the BSR is of long standing; she and Caroline Egerton worked together on an earlier development campaign and we regularly welcome one of Di’s talented Youth Music Foundation scholars. Di and Lino’s generous hospitality allowed us also to celebrate Lisa Beaven’s recent grant to work on some of our archive prints and photos. I was also delighted to spend time with Su Baker and Jon Capattan at the Victorian College of the Arts and our relationship with Melbourne will I’m sure go from strength to strength.

Felicity Peters, Sue Russell and Christopher at the Melbourne reception

Melbourne reception: Felicity Peters, Christopher Smith and Sue Russell (left to right)

Sydney next – a very different city of course, but no less warm a welcome. Lea Beness and Tom Hillard are regular visitors to the BSR, and very generously hosted us; and I had very kind audiences at the Universities of Sydney and Macquarie.

A characteristic of recent times has been the presence at the BSR of the Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar. It was terrific to see Janet Gale with many of the scholars she has supported so staunchly, and especially since one of their number, Claire Rowan, now at Warwick, has just won a major ERC grant – a testament to the role of such generosity, and our resources, in supporting early career researchers. Just before starting our trip we had had the great pleasure of seeing Suzy Coleman and Jeffrey Hilton who sponsor a similar scholarship for a Sydney University scholar. These thoughtful sponsorships enable excellent Australian scholars to spend extended periods at the BSR deepening their command of their subjects and enriching the BSR’s international community.

Tom Hillard, Lea Beness, Christopher and Susan celebrate Macquarie

Tom Hillard, Lea Beness and Christopher and Susan Smith (left to right) celebrate Macquarie.

It was also great to visit the National Art School Sydney, where Director Michael Snelling hosted a lunch for the NAS award-holders at the BSR, and I was able to stop by the Australia Council for the Arts (ACA) to thank them for nearly twenty years of support.

With the kindness of the University of Sydney’s Classics department and especially Tom, Lea and Kathryn Welch, we hosted a reception for Sydney based BSR friends. It was a delight to see recent award-holders as well as those whose BSR links go back somewhat further! Many of the nearly seventy ACA artists came to one or other of the receptions, as well as representatives and award-holders from the William Fletcher Foundation which supports a three-month arts award at the BSR. Time and again, award-holders told us how important their time in Rome had been for their careers, and it was really moving to see this depth of affection for the BSR.

Finally, we flew to Adelaide where our newest partner, the Helpmann Academy, generously organised a fascinating visit to the major art schools, and a chance to see even more award-holders and friends, as well as catch a glimpse of the run-up to the Adelaide Festival. We were thrilled to encounter the rich and varied cultural life of a city we had never visited before (Susan highly recommends the Penfolds’ tasting tour!), and I was honoured to have been involved in the selection of a new Helpmann Academy Resident, who will join us in the spring.


New Helpmann Academy Resident Deborah Prior (centre) surrounded by members of the Helpmann Academy and Christopher Smith.

So many memorable occasions remain with us – visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, seeing fireworks in Sydney, catching the two remarkable shows, Warhol and Wei Wei at the NGV in Melbourne and Grayson Perry at Sydney MCA, visiting the glass foundry at the Jam Factory in Adelaide. The sheer beauty of these two countries, and the vitality of the culture we encountered everywhere from street art to magnificent museum collections to challenging academic conferences, remain with me. Above all, Susan and I were moved by and grateful for the warmth of our welcome at every stage. We hope we will see old and new friends again at via Gramsci, and the BSR will always continue to be a bridge for the Commonwealth into the heart of Rome.’

Christopher Smith (Director)


New year, new projects, new partners

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

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

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

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

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

Lampedusa Cross

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

"Death in The Mediterranean" the survivors story"Death in The Mediterranean" the survivors story

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Christopher Smith (Director)



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