Archiving the Italian Academies of Early Modern Italy: Critical methodologies and digital tools

Event Date: 
28 Jun 2018


UCL Centre for Critical Heritage Studies / Centre for Early Modern Exchanges



Over 800 academies, or learned societies, flourished in Italy over the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, forming a significant and influential aspect of social and intellectual culture. Multidisciplinary in their interests, bridging the arts and sciences, they operated outside, but were often interconnected with official institutions like universities, courts, political and religious bodies, and offered a more flexible, apparently ‘free’ and ‘equal’ form of association. Members could sometimes include socially marginal figures like women and artisans. Academies attracted also foreign intellectuals and their networks extended across Europe, providing a model of association for other nations to emulate, adapt or reject. However, the historical records of the Italian Academies remain fragmented now across many different archives and libraries, and are often lost from sight, in part because of the sheer quantity and variety of surviving data and its geographical dispersal, but also because academies were often short-lived and marginal to official culture. A further factor is the frequently negative historiography of Italian academies, casting them as frivolous and irrelevant. The political and religious suppression of various heterodox academies; their invisibility in cataloguing systems; material factors (earthquakes, flooding); and political agendas surrounding heritage preservation are further factors to consider in the critical evaluation of the archival and other remaining sources.

The symposium thus aims to interrogate the forms, state and meanings of academy archives from multi-disciplinary perspectives, in relation to broader issues of cultural heritage relating to early modern Italy. By bringing together a team of leading scholars from the fields of archive, digital humanities and early modern studies, the intention is to challenge historical perspectives on academies and explore new methodologies and possibilities for modelling future research and sustainable digital resources.


For full details and to register (by 25 June) please click here.






9.00                  Registration

9.30                  Welcome and opening remarks

Alexander Samson (University College London, Director of Centre for Early Modern Exchanges)

Lisa Sampson (University College London)


9.45                  Session 1: Methodologies and Research Perspectives 

Chair: Lisa Sampson (University College London)


Simone Testa (International Studies Institute, Florence /Medici Archive Project), Research perspectives on Italian academies and their sources


10.15                Keynote lecture

                        Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck, University of London), Archival turns in early modern Italy

11.15-11.45        Coffee break

11.45-1.00         Session 2: Case studies – Academies and their archives in Genova and Milan

Chair: John Henderson (Birkbeck, University of London)

Luca Beltrami (Università di Genova), The Accademia degli Addormentati of Genoa in the Manuscripts and Archives


Roberta Ferro and Roberta Carpani (Università Cattolica di Milano), Mapping the Academies of Milan in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Sources and research methodologies


1.00-2.00           Lunch


2.00-3.15           Session 3: Archiving intangible heritage: Theatre, spectacle, and oral culture


Chair:  Catherine Keen (University College London)


Lorenza Gianfrancesco (University of Chichester), Manuscript culture and oral communication in early modern Italian Academies: The case of Naples 

Lisa Sampson (University College London), Theatre in the Italian Academies: Archives, manuscripts and performance 

3.30-5.00           Session 4: Digital tools and resources

Chair: David Robey (University of Oxford)

Alessio Assonitis (Medici Archive Project, Florence), Archiving the Medici: History and Future (1370s-2020s)

Matthew Symonds (University College London), The Archaeology of Reading and an archaeology of Digital Humanities  

Maria Teresa Guerrini (Università di Bologna), Archives and libraries for the study of academies of Bologna (16th-18th centuries)

5.00-5.15           Break

5.15-6.00           Round table

Chair: Jane Everson (Royal Holloway, University of London)



Organizer: Lisa Sampson (, assisted by Francesca Masiero (