Unlocking the Fine Arts archive
PhD student Nia Davies, who recently passed her viva, is taking part in a knowledge exchange project to unlock the secrets of the Fine Arts archive of the British School at Rome, as part of University of Manchester’s Collaboration Labs programme.
Since 1913, young artists have traveled from Britain to Rome to take up residencies as fellows of the British School at Rome, an institution founded in 1901 as a hub of research into the art, architecture and archeology of the region. Over the years since, the BSR has enabled artists to live and work in the city and discover the art and culture of Italy for themselves.
In the last 120 years, painters, sculptors, engravers and printmakers, architects, archeologists and scholars have left a rich legacy in the school’s archive.
Until now, the correspondence, artworks, materials and objects in the archival collection have remained understudied and inaccessible to those not able to explore the boxes in person. To bring these materials and their history to light, the team of researchers are curating an interactive digital archive to showcase the collection, tell its stories and ignite interest among the public. Prints, letters, postcards, photographs, equipment, meeting minutes, drawings, maps, engravings and their stories are waiting to be explored in the archive.
Nia is working as Associate Research Consultant in collaboration with Dr Peter Buckles from the History Department at the University of Liverpool and Architecture PhD candidate at the University of Manchester, Ksenia Litvinenko. They are brought together by Collaboration Labs at Manchester University’s Knowledge Exchange, funded by the ESRC NPIF Accelerating Business Collaboration scheme. They will be working on Unlocking the Fine Arts Archive at the British School at Rome throughout Spring 2021.
In particular, the team are researching the interwar period when painters, such as Winifred Knights and Thomas Monnington and sculptors such as John Skeaping and Barbara Hepworth (pictured above in the BSR courtyard in around 1925) among other BSR fellows whose practices were enriched by their time in Rome. Once in Italy, these artists were exposed to the abundant arts and culture of classical Rome and Italian Renaissance, to the local architecture and topography, to remains of the ancient Mediterranean and to the people and environment of interwar Italy. All of this culture influenced their practice and thus went on to shape the future of arts and culture in Britain and beyond. The team will exhibit the archive’s objects, images and narratives online later in the year.
More information on this case study can be found on the Collaboration Labs Knowledge Exchange page https://www.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/researcher-development/knowledge-exchange/case-studies/british-school-at-rome/
More information on the BSR is available here https://www.bsr.ac.uk/.
Image: Thomas Monnington, John Skeaping, Barbara Hepworth and Winifred Knights in the British School at Rome courtyard c.1925, from the BSR Fine Arts Archive, Digital Collections.