Access the AHRC-funded Italian Academies project and the British Library Italian Academies database, a collaboration between Royal Holloway University of London, the University of Reading and the British Library.

Issue 7

The Italian Academies 1530-1700: a Themed Collection Database.

E-bulletin – Issue 7 Summer 2009


I must begin with an apology for the absence of a bulletin during the academic year 2008-09, the third year of the project. It has been an extremely busy year as will be evident from items below. We have been working hard to ensure that all the work for the project in this its first phase was fully completed by the end of the funding period. Simultaneously, starting last September, we have worked long and hard on preparing the new application to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for the second, expanded phase of the project. The year has also been characterised by a number of significant highlights, of which the public launch in January was the most outstanding. Regular meetings of the project team and the Advisory Panel have continued, as have presentations both in the UK and internationally. As I write we are approaching the end of the first phase of the project. Funding theoretically ends at the end of August, but has been extended to allow for some further presentations in the autumn, and we shall take advantage of this to review and correct any blips we may notice in the database. Work will continue as far as possible while we await the outcome of our new funding bid, due early in 2010.

 Public Launch

The Public and Press Launch of the project was held in the British Library on Tuesday January 20th 2009 in the presence of HE the Italian Ambassador, Giancarlo Aragona; the Chief Executive of the AHRC, Professor Philip Esler; the Chair of the Trustees of the British Library, Sir Colin Lucas; and the Chairman of the Council of Royal Holloway University of London, Sir Andrew Burns. Sir Colin delivered the welcome and introduction; the address was given by the Chair of the Advisory Panel, the Director of the Warburg Institute, Professor Charles Hope. The launch was attended by some 80 members of the public, including colleagues of the British Library responsible for scholarship and research, university colleagues in the Humanities, and members of the press. The formal proceedings were followed by a demonstration of the project at which those attending could experiment with, and review results of enquiries. A magnificent reception was provided by the British Library. The whole occasion was extremely rewarding. Those attending found the project fascinating, and had stimulating questions to ask. Professor Esler, as the representative of the funding body, was particularly complimentary and encouraged us to continue. He commended the project for its potential to reach out beyond the academic users, and so achieve the public impact which the funding council is seeking to achieve. The Chief Executive of the British Library, Dame Lynne Brindley, was unable to attend due to a prior engagment, but sent her congratulations on the project, of which she continues to be a strong supporter.

Reports of the Launch were carried on the British Library and the Royal Holloway websites. The presence of the Italian Ambassdor and of Minister Brauzzi at the Public Launch has cemented the links between the project and the Embassy and we are extremely grateful and encouraged by the interest shown by the Italian authorities.

Project presentations

In the third year of the project we had scheduled presentations in Italy and in particular in the four cities on which the project has worked: Naples, Padua, Bologna and Siena. The Naples presentation had been anticipated by the conference held in July 2008 at which Dr. Lorenza Gianfrancesco spoke on the project with a presentation.

In October 2008 the team travelled to Florence, to make a presentation at the annual conference of the Associazione italiana dei bibliotecari (AIB). We were generously allocated a full morning to present the project. The presentation was thus structured as a rolling programme, which could be interrupted as and when necessary, restarted etc. to allow for delegates to drop in when convenient, ask questions, focus on those parts that most interested them. We were delighted to have in the audience for this presentation the head of Rare Books from the Biblioteca nazionale centrale (BNC) in Florence, Dr, Piero Scapecchi, and the representative of the Regione Campania, Dr. Loredana Conti.

Also in October the team travelled up to Edinburgh for the postponed presentation at the National Library of Scotland. This was a very successful event with a larger audience than for the Oxford presentation and considerable interest was shown, in particular about the possibility of extending the project to include libraries in Scotland which, in view of the historical period, may well have items not held in London. The team welcomed this suggestion and hope to explore this possibility further.

In March 2009, Professor Everson represented the team at the Renaissance Society of America conference in Los Angeles and gave a presentation of the database. The presentation on this occasion formed part of a panel entitled: New Technologies and Renaissance Studies: Emerging Websites and Databases for Research in Early Modern European Art. The panel was organised by colleagues at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and included in addition to our presentation on the Italian Academies database, a presentation by the National Gallery on the Accademia di San Luca in Rome, and by colleagues from the Kunsthistorisches Institut, Florence and J. W. Goethe University on the Teutsche Academie of Sandrart. Although these two were fundamentally art historical projects, there were many areas of common interest, many similar problems that had had to be solved. The team very much hope to keep in touch with the American and German colleagues with a view to further sharing of information and experience.

The last presentation of the year was given in Bologna in May in the august surroundings of the Biblioteca dell’Archiginnasio. Once again we were very pleased to have among those attending prominent interested parties including the Responsabile dei Beni culturali per Emilia Romagna, Dr. Rosaria Campioni, and colleagues from the University. Although attendance from members of the public was small, the questions following the presentation revealed a great deal of interest in the project. Colleagues in the Archiginnasio would be keen to be further involved, but there are funding questions which need to be solved first, to allow for that to happen.

There remain two presentations to be given in Italy – in Padua and in Siena. In both cases constraints on our time and the programme of public events in each place mean that these presentations will take place in autumn 2009, and are scheduled for the first half of October. It is intended that the presentations follow the pattern established for Bologna, but if time permits some research focussed discussion may be included, as a further demonstration of the value of the database to researchers.[revise]

Research trips

Once again this year, the two Research Assistants have both spent time in libraries and archives in Italy, in particular in Naples, Siena and Padua. In addition to the valuable information collected on academies and their members and books, which has been added in to the database, these visits have been particularly useful in helping to develop and consolidate contacts with librarians, scholars and those responsible for the promotion of culture in the regions involved in our project. In particular contacts established during Dr. Testa’s visit to Siena are proving essential in setting up the presentation to colleagues there.

Database development

The database is now complete for the first phase. Information concerning the holdings of the British Library on Academies in the four cities of Naples, Padua, Bologna and Siena has been entered. This will continue to be checked and amended if necessary as further information comes to light, in particular from users or from new published research. The Notes field of records will be regularly updated, again as information is notified to us. Readers are reminded that the database lists information under 24 fields all fully searchable. Our last task, as we complete the project, is to revise the front pages (About, Main and Search) in line with comments received from users and from the Advisory Panel.[revise]

Digitisation of images from items incorporated in the database is continuing, thanks to the renewed and generous funding of the British Library.

Uploading of the Italian language version has been held back, due to the pressure of work this year to finish the project according to the original specifications, and to put together the new application. It is proposed to upload this early in the new phase, as part of the general upgrading of the database and server which the Library is aiming to implement.

The next phase

The application for a second tranche of funding from the AHRC was finally submitted in July 2009. This is a Research Grant application and considerably more complex than the previous grant (a Resource Enhancement award). The network of institutions has been extended to include the University of Reading (Dr. Lisa Sampson, formerly a member of the Advisory Panel), and now too the British Library counts as a full academic partner. The application has two main aims. (i) To extend the database to include academies in Venice, Rome, Sicily, cities in Campania, Verona, Mantua and Ferrara. This will significantly increase the number of Academies surveyed. Publications listed will continue to be those held in the British Library. (ii) to carry out original research on the publications of the Academies, both those listed and those to be surveyed in the new phase. Proposed lines of research include: theatre and court spectacles; politics; censorship; intellectual networking; book history and illustrations; southern Italian culture and the academies. In addition to publishing papers in learned journals, the project will also publicise the research through two workshops and an international conference, whose proceedings will be published in a volume of Acts. The regulations for Research Grants also require the team to demonstrate both benefit to academics, and impact ie benefit to the general public. It is therefore the aim of the team to work with the British Library outreach and schools’ liaison team to publicise the project and stimulate involvement by schools and their students.

It is expected that the outcome of this bid will be known early in the new year, 2010 and if successful we shall begin the second phase of the project in April 2010. In the meantime we shall continue to explore other possible funding sources and collaborations. We are particularly interested in the memorandum of agreement for research projects recently signed between the UK and Italian governments to promote projects of interest to both countries. This will be administered by the AHRC and CNR and we are currently awaiting further details.


Information and web links

In addition to the links already established and publicised, we were delighted to be invited by the Embassy to write a description of the project for the Italian Foreign Ministry webpage on Italian culture ( ).

Information on the technical details of the project, see:

For access to the database, see:

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