A history of the Library in pictures 23 November 2007 SLIDE 1: There are many ways to tell the history of a library. The easiest aspect to show is the physical plantthe changes over the years, the renovation we are celebrating today. A more difficult task is to try to convey the library’s role in the intellectual history of our academy and in the lives of its readers, whether they be Fellows or local scholars. Luckily, I’ll have some help in that department from the members of the panel! SLIDE 2: Let me begin, however, with the Library as a physical space. We are so accustomed to our beautiful Library on the Janiculum that we often forget that for the first twenty years of its existence, the American Academy was somewhere else—actually in a series of locations, five in all when you count the homes of its sister institution, the American School of Classical Studies in Rome, which merged with the Academy in 1913. POINTER: The Academy began in the Palazzo Torlonia on the Via Condotti, then moved to the Villa Aurora on the Pincio, and later to the Villa Mirafiori on the Via Nomentana, and finally to the Janiculum. The ASCSR began with the Academy in the Villa Aurora, then moved to the Villa Cheremeteff and later to the Villa Bonghi and finally to the Janiculum. SLIDE 3: This rather faded plan shows us where the Library was supposed to have been in 1894 in the Palazzo Torlonia, but it certainly never occupied an entire room in the few months—less than a year—that the Academy was located there. Howard Van Buren Magonigle, one of the first students in the American School of Architecture in Rome, tells the real story: “A hallway recess accommodated the Library, which consisted of a single copy of Middleton.” This was probably John Henry Middleton’s Remains of Ancient Rome. By February 1895, Magonigle wrote: “we have the beginnings of a good library and Mr. Lord [Austin Lord, the director] is adding to it all the time, besides the best casts that we can find.” SLIDE 4: In 1895 the architecture school moved to the Villa Aurora. Here’s Middleton—now sporting a “Villino dell’Aurora” book stamp. Such book stamps are the only way to reconstruct the early collections, as we have no accession books from this period.
SLIDE 5: This is the only interior picture of the Villa Aurora from this period, to my knowledge, although the Academy was there for almost ten years! The photo dates to 1895 and was published in the Academy’s first exhibition catalog. You can’t see Guercino’s famous fresco above, but you can see the Library, in cases along the walls. As this was the first year of the Classical School, we can assume that the books in this picture served both groups of students. SLIDE 6: After that first year the School of Classical Studies then moved out to this palazzo, near the Stazione Termini. Note the central position of the library on the plan. (POINTER) SLIDE 7: When the classicists moved to Villa Bonghi, they divided the library into a “Main Library” (for classical literature and antiquities), seen on the left, and a “Medieval and Renaissance Library,” seen on the right. (The plan is hard to read because it was taken from a faded photocopy in the archives of the Archaeological Institute of America,) SLIDE 8: Meanwhile the American Academy in Rome (the former architecture school) had moved to the Villa Mirafiori. We have no pictures of their library, only this one of the drafting room. SLIDE 9: In 1914, both libraries moved into the new building on the Janiculum. POINTER: here you see the building under construction and a little house next to it, now the home of our Photographic Archive. You also see the Via Paolo Narducci, which cut the corner off the Library. SLIDE 10: Here’s the Library as it appeared in 1914, with the candelabra designed by Gorham Phillips Stevens and a vaulted ceiling modeled on the Biblioteca Piccolomini in Siena. There were about 12,000 books in the collection at that time (9816 from the Classical School, 1148 from the Academy), and about 6750 mounted photographs. The original entrance is barely visible in the background. Here on the left is that entrance room, adorned with casts, and below, what is now the Catalog room, before the
introduction of the card catalog, looking into the Photograph collection. (In 1917 that room was changed again into the Periodical Room.)
SLIDE 11: The Museum, now known better as the Archaeological Study Collection, was connected to the Library by a doorway (POINTER). Note the designation of “Architects Library”—in 1914 this room also had the drafting tables, but within a year the architects’ books were integrated into the rest of the collection. SLIDE 12: Librarian Albert Van Buren, a classicist, and assistant librarian Stanley Lothrop, an art historian, designed a new classification scheme, which we still use, with many modifications. Van Buren defined the acquisitions policy as “everything that has to do with the history of human life in Italy from the earliest times, and also with the history of human life in other countries in so far as that may be expected to throw light on Italian civilization.” This is a remarkable statement, when you think about it, free of the usual limitations of discipline, level or language. In 1915, for example, the Library began a systematic collection of the classics of Italian literature—a collection that was later abandoned when money got tight and resumed again only in the year 2000. SLIDE 13: The heart of the Library remained the main reading room, now the Arthur Ross Reading Room. This room gradually acquired a collection of portrait busts, which are useful in dating pictures, as very little else has changed. SLIDE 14: Here it is today (looking the other way, toward the entrance). SLIDE 15: You’ve already seen the picture on the upper right. In 1928, a card catalog was installed and floortoceiling shelves added in the room next door. The card catalog stood in this room for 72 years, until 2003, when we moved the card catalog down to the basement. It was so heavy that we had to take it out the back gate, go down the street and in through the loading dock! SLIDE 16: Today our catalog is online and we have terminals for online databases as well. The Academy is proud to be a founding member of URBS, the Unione Romana Biblioteche Scientifiche, a consortium of libraries of
humanistic studies in Rome, many of them representing foreign academies like ours.
SLIDE 17: You probably wouldn’t recognize the room at left if you didn’t have a picture of the same room at right. SLIDE 18: And here is the same room today: the Linda Bettman Reference Room, named for one of our most generous readers. In the center is a new reference desk, named for Andrew Heiskell, another wonderful person and a Trustee of the Academy. If you tour the library after this event, you will also see alcoves, tables, chairs and desks named for people who helped make this Library one of the most beloved in Rome. SLIDE 19: The original entrance to the Library moved at some point (strangely enough, we don’t know when!), and the vestibule became the home of the Fototeca Unione, here seen (on the right) in a photo by its founder Ernest Nash. This is taken the other way, looking into the room from the courtyard. Note the addition of the niche for the statue of Pierpont Morgan SLIDE 20: In 1996, this space became the Barbara Goldsmith Rare Book Room, designed by Michael Graves…. SLIDE 21: …while in 2001, the Photo Archive and Fototeca Unione moved to the building next door, the little garden house I showed you earlier. SLIDE 22: Meanwhile, back in the Library, it wasn’t long before the books overflowed from the main reading room and had to be shelved on the floor below. Eventually mezzanines were created. A persistent theme in the history of the Library is the problem of space, and how to get more of it. SLIDE 23: The old stacks were retained in last year’s renovation, but we re integrated the collection into a single call number sequence, flowing from top to bottom.
To gain space without expanding the Library’s “footprint,” we also created new mezzanines, new reading rooms, and added compact shelves for the periodicals.
SLIDE 24: On the left you see one of the new reading rooms, while on the right, one of our loyal readers is demonstrating the rolling shelves. SLIDE 25: For those of you who remember the old “metropolitana” in the cryptoporticus, here it is today, transformed. SLIDE 26: None of these changes would matter, were it not for the books and their readers. Over the years, many of our books have been gifts, and a whole history of our institution could be told from what’s just inside the cover. Moreover, a whole lecture could be devoted to the development of the collections and how this development parallels the mission of the American Academy in Rome. As the Academy added new fields—such as landscape architecture and music in the years between the two world wars—the Library struggled to adapt, without slighting its core collections in classics and art history. The collections also reflect the overall financial health of the Academy: the annual reports of the Library reveal that there were years in which no purchases could be made, or very few, and other periods in which there were more funds for books. Some of this money came from foundations and grants, such as the Carnegie Corporation in the 1930s, the Kress Foundation in the 1970s, and the Department of Education in the early 2000s. SLIDE 27: Readers have always played a central part in the development of the collections. I’ll show you a few of them—a personal selection…. How many can you recognize? L to R: Arthur Frothingham, Howard Crosby Butler, Elihu Vedder, Charles Rufus Morey, Esther Van Deman, Herbert De Cou (who was a cataloger in the Library before his tragic death in Libya), Frank P. Fairbanks. Note that these are all Americans. We know that Italian scholars were invited to give lectures at the old School of Classical Studies—among them were the archaeologist Giacomo Boni and the art historian Adolfo Venturi—but we don’t know whether they actually used the Library, which was still relatively small.
SLIDE 28: By the 1920s the Library had grown large enough to attract outside scholars, but there was no systematic recording of readers’ names at the time. Professorincharge W.L. Westermann wrote in his annual report in 1927: “The presence in the Academy Library of scholars of established reputation, with definite problems of research before them … is greatly to the advantage of the School of Classical Studies.” Do you recognize these people? Franz Cumont, the great Belgian scholar of ancient religion, helped build the collection in that field in 19151916. Prof. Tenney Frank is next, then Francis Kelsey, followed by Howard Hanson (the composer —chosen to represent the Fellows during this period), Gorham Phillips Stevens (who was the director for much of this period and helped design the Library), Myrtilla Avery (art historian), and finally the great ancient historian Michael Rostovtzeff. SLIDE 29: Gisela Richter, Oliver Strunk, Agnes Mongan, Ralph Ellison, Lily Ross Taylor (who could have been in either of the last two slides as well, as she was a student at the old Classical School, a Fellow just after the merger and Professorincharge both before and after WW2—I have included her in this period because it was in 1961 that she cofounded the Friends of the Library—and Richard Krautheimer. You should mentally add to this group not only our own Fellows but also the Italian Fulbright Fellows, who have brought their own publications to our collections and a wealth of knowledge to our American Fellows. SLIDE 30: Axel Boethius, Margherita Guarducci, Peter Viereck (American poet and historian), HansPeter L’Orange (our Norwegian neighbor), Georgina Masson, Luigi Moretti (known to some of you as a classicist and to others as the father of Nanni Moretti, the director!) SLIDE 31 And finally, let us not forget the librarians and library staff members… Albert Van Buren, Colonel Peter de Daehn, Nina Longobardi (here shown with King Gustav VI of Sweden in his visit to the Library in 1967), Rogers Scudder, Lucilla Marino and Antonella Bucci (who I hope are in the audience), and… SLIDE 32:
Our current Library staff, who are still smiling after two summers of moving books!
SLIDE 33 We are grateful for our beautiful new Library, and we are proud of being part of the timeline of a distinguished institution. And every once in a while, we stop our work to enjoy the timeless quality of our Library, which evokes the past, summons the future, and—luckily for us—thrives in the present moment. Thank you.