You are here

International Observatory for Cultural Heritage

Conceived by Barbara Faedda (the Academy’s Executive Director) in 2016, the IOCH is dedicated to all issues relating to the survival, protection, and conservation of cultural heritage. It is historical, practical, and theoretical. It sponsors and encourages research into monuments, artifacts, practices, and traditions. It records losses and destruction of international cultural heritage in all media and across all boundaries, and it funds and seeks funding to aid in research on and conservation of treasures at risk— whether from age or location, natural disaster, urban development, conflict, war, or other perils. It is also social, in that it seeks to understand the meaning and value of monuments and objects not only for their value to humanity but also in their local contexts. And it is timely, as it spotlights the political uses and abuses of heritage sites and monuments as well as the exchange, transport, and trafficking of material culture.

At the Italian Academy: The IOCH grows out of the Academy’s long commitment to the understanding of cultural transmission, both close to home and across borders. It was inspired by the successes of our deep commitment to bring together science and the arts, as witnessed by our public interdisciplinary programs, since the beginning of the century. It takes heart from the worldwide professional appreciation of our efforts to understand the place of works of art in society and of the individual and collective responses to it. The IOCH draws together examples of U.S. sponsorship of work in this domain and longstanding Italian expertise and commitment (from the survival of the antique in the Renaissance to that nation’s recent contributions to the protection of monuments in the Near and Middle East).

Mission: The IOCH recognizes the need to conserve all that is meaningful in culture at a time when so much is threatened with the imminent possibility of destruction. It is determined to ensure that all possible instruments are encouraged and mobilized to sustain the meanings of the material remains of culture for the future. To this end, the Academy dedicates its energy to the recording and collection of data on endangered monuments, to the establishment of fellowships in the history of conservation of material culture, and to providing a critical forum for all who already are engaged, or who plan to engage, in areas so critical to our future.

How: Sparking dialogue among scholars in archaeology, art history, and architecture, along with technicians, conservators, and experts in diplomacy, law, and protective services, the IOCH embraces both tangible and intangible cultural heritage, promotes awareness of the multiplicity of cultural expressions, and fosters an inclusive and cross-cultural understanding of heritage preservation, management, and interpretation. This dialogue is expressed in the daily work of our Academy Fellows, featured here below, as are the Academy’s exhibitions and conferences; multi-year projects; and digital exhibitions.

To inaugurate the Observatory, several Academy Fellows and the Director presented talks on cultural heritage protection beyond the Academy building:

  • Helen Malko at the Senate Human Rights Caucus on "Destruction of cultural heritage in conflict: promoting accountability and the rule of law"
  • Helen Malko at Roger Williams University
  • Aleksandar Staničić at MassArt, Architectural Design Department, on “Warchitecture”
  • Camilla Cavicchi at the Italian Embassy/Cultural Institute, Washington, on "Protecting our heritage"
  • Francesca de Tomasi at the Embassy/Cultural Institute, on "The classical antiquities trade between Italy and the United States, 1861–1939"
  • Helen Malko at the Fondation maison des Sciences de l'homme, on "Heritage Wars: The Erasure of History in Iraq and Syria"
  • David Freedberg, keynote address at the 3-day conference at the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), "Iconoclasia y Iconodulia: Culto y Violencia en torno a la imagen sagrada y sacralizada"

Observatory Fellows

See our scholars in residence here


Observatory Readings


Observatory Projects

Advanced Program of Ancient History and Art (APAHA)

An international for-credit summer course of advanced education created by the Academy and by the University of Rome's H2CU. APAHA trains junior scholars in advanced approaches, with first-hand exposure to archaeology.

Digital Serlio Project

Based at Columbia’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, an international team of scholars, students and staff conducts textual and visual analysis and has digitized Sebastiano Serlio’s unpublished manuscript, On Domestic Architecture, as well as published works. Funding for research and scholarship is provided by the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation and by the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust.

Sardinia Cultural Heritage Project

In a three-year program illuminating aspects of this Mediterranean crossroads, the Sardinia initiative will launch in Spring 2020 with a conference on the history and recent restoration of the Giants of Mont’e Prama, dozens of ancient stone statues that were found by chance in the 1970s.

FRIDA Venice— Festivals in Renaissance Italy: Digital Atlas

With funding from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and the participation of Prof. Giuseppe Gerbino, former Fellow Francesca Bortoletti is developing a project on the interactions among texts and images in humanistic and court culture.

Digital Amatrice

A continuing virtual exhibition on the earthquake-flattened town of Amatrice and the fate of damaged cultural heritage. Developed by former Fellow Francesco Gangemi under the auspices of the Photographic Collection of the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte), with the Soprintendenza archeologia del Lazio as an official partner.

Observatory Events

International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Fri, Oct 18, 2019
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
In November 2018, Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy released a report that had been prepared for the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, entitled The Restitution of African Cultural Heritage.... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Workshop
Thu, Oct 3, 2019
3:30 pm
The Exhibition continues through Oct. 31. Details on the Workshop that took place on Oct. 3: WELCOMING REMARKS: Barbara Faedda (Italian Academy) INTRODUCTION: Barbara Faedda and Lynda Dematteo... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Exhibition
Thu, Oct 3, 2019
9:30 am
to Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 4:30 pm
Extended through January. In 1951, entrepreneur Giovanni Battista Giorgini launched Italian fashion designers in the American market with parties and runway shows in his villa in Florence. Within... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Fri, Mar 8, 2019
9:30 am
If you cannot register, please join us on March 8th; we always try to accommodate walk-in guests.  Museums across the continent are being called on to work with Indigenous communities to reframe... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Exhibition
Fri, Nov 9, 2018
4:30 pm
The Center for Palestine Studies, in partnership with the NGO Zochrot, and... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Thu, Oct 11, 2018
2:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Panelists: Bashir Abu Manneh, Nadia Ben Youssef, Debby FarberModerator: Nadia Abu El-HajRespondent: Audra SimpsonChair: Brian Boyd The Center for... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Exhibition
Wed, Oct 10, 2018
5:30 pm
The Center for Palestine Studies, in partnership with the NGO Zochrot, and... Learn more
A looted funerary sculpture from Palmyra. (C) 2014 UNESCO.
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Lecture
Thu, Apr 5, 2018
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
If you cannot register, please join us on April 5th; we always try to accommodate walk-in guests.  Matthew Bogdanos will speak about the Islamic State’s trafficking in looted antiquities and the... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Tue, Mar 27, 2018
9:30 am to 5:45 pm
Trump’s assault on Native American sacred sites demands a concerted response. This symposium explores the implications – social, archaeological, environmental, spiritual, historical, artistic and... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Fri, Feb 16, 2018
2:30 pm
Read James Cuno'scomplete talkhere James Cuno draws fire when arguing against the repatriation of some... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Thu, Feb 8, 2018
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Speakers:Lisa Ackerman Executive Vice President, World Monuments FundRemembering a Difficult Past Alberto Giordano Chair, Geography Dept., Texas State UniversityFrom the National to the Individual:... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Thu, Oct 19, 2017
11:00 am to 1:00 pm
Video below and here. Please join us even if you cannot register; walk-ins will be accommodated. Doors open 10:15 am.... Learn more
The monument of Bartolomeo Colleoni transferred to the Palazzo Venezia in Rome (Rome, 1917)
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Exhibition
Mon, Oct 16, 2017
9:30 am
to Tue, Nov 21, 2017, 4:30 pm
The International Observatory for Cultural Heritage marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S.A.'s entry into World War I with a photo... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Lecture
Thu, Apr 20, 2017
5:30 pm
Video below and here. Welcoming Remarks: David Freedberg, Director of the Italian Academy, Columbia University Salvatore Settis is the... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Lecture
Thu, Mar 23, 2017
5:30 pm
Professors Francesco de Angelis (Columbia) and co-director Marco Maiuro (La Sapienza, Rome; Columbia) will present the excavation results, discuss their historical significance, and announce exciting... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Symposium
Wed, Feb 8, 2017
5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Registration is now closed. Please join us, even if you cannot register. Doors will open at 5 PM and available seats will be released at 5:20 PM to walk-ins on a first come, first served basis.... Learn more
Image#1: Rovine Palmyra (Palmyra ruins)
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
Exhibition
Tue, Oct 18, 2016
6:00 pm
to Tue, Nov 22, 2016, 4:30 pm
Curated by Renato Miracco Massimiliano Gatti presents a stunning record of work: recent images from Syria (Palmyra, Apamea, Resafa) and Iraq (Khorsabad, and the Jerwan site, both near Mosul). The... Learn more