The Italian Academy was created in 1991 on the basis of a charter signed by the President of the Republic of Italy and the President of Columbia University. It was conceived as a center for advanced research in areas relating to Italian culture, science and society. It was also intended to provide a locus for collaborative projects between senior Italian and American scholars, particularly those open to interdisciplinary research. Given its international scope and its long-standing commitment to all aspects of Italian culture and society, Columbia was seen as an especially appropriate context for such a venture.
Funding for the Academy came from an endowment established at Columbia in 1991 by the Republic of Italy; since then, a variety of foundations and private donors have provided other endowments and gifts.
McKim Mead and White's 1927 Casa Italiana, elegantly reconstructed by Italo Rota and Sam White in 1993, is the home of the Academy. It provides an exceptional series of offices for the Academy's Fellows, as well as housing a library and a magnificent theater, in Neo-Renaissance style, in which major academic, theatrical and musical events regularly take place. (See our Annual Report).
At the heart of the work of the Academy lies its interdisciplinary Fellowship Program. Fellowships are open to senior scholars at the post-doctoral level and above who wish to devote a semester or a full academic year to genuinely innovative work. The most advanced part of the Fellowship Program is the Academy's ongoing Project in Humanities and Neuroscience, in which scholars in both the humanities and the sciences work together in assessing the significance of the latest developments in genetics and the neurosciences for the humanities, and vice-versa.
The Academy also serves as the chief reference point in the United States (as well as a frequent meeting place) for all links between the worlds of higher education in Italy and the US. Furthermore, its theater, library, and other public spaces offer important locations for a variety of performances, concerts and exhibitions designed to enhance cultural relations between the Republic of Italy and the artistic, political, and academic communities of New York and the United States.
Other scholarly initiatives
Recent projects launched by the Academy include a visiting professorship series various fields (made possible by multi-year funding from the Compagnia di San Paolo); the Advanced Program of Ancient History and Art, a summer archaeology course; the Academies Project at the Italian Academy, a virtual library supported by the Kress Foundation and the Warburg Institute.
These initiatives build on the success of other long-running programs including the Academy's series of Humanities and Neuroscience conferences; the dedicated Bodini fellowships; and the prestigious Premio New York for promising young Italian artists.
Hosted in the Academy building
The Columbia University Seminar in Modern Italian Studies, chaired by Professor Ernest Ialongo, holds regular meetings in the Academy's Conference Room to address political, social, cultural, and religious aspects of Italian life from 1815 to the present. The Center for the Ancient Mediterranean at Columbia University, directed by Professor William Harris, has its offices in the Academy building. It, too, welcomes the public for regular talks in the Conference Room as part of its mission to link together all the faculty, students and numerous departments that have an interest in the cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and adjoining areas.