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International Observatory for Cultural Heritage

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); in the Academy’s exhibitions and conferences (also featured here below); in multi-year projects (also featured here below); and in presentations now being developed: an online exhibition (on the historical treasures of Amatrice, Italy, flattened by recent earthquakes) and a conference (of field reports on the destruction of art and architecture).

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

  • 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 and here

Observatory Readings

Observatory Projects

Advanced Program of Ancient History and Art

An international 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

The digitization of Avery Library’s unparalleled holdings of the works of Sebastiano Serlio, on Avery’s website and through the Getty Research Portal.

Weinberg Fellowship

Two to four Fellowships each year, devoted to the understanding and conservation of architecture in any geographic area and period.

Observatory Events

A looted funerary sculpture from Palmyra. (C) 2014 UNESCO.
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
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 accomodate walk-ins.  Matthew Bogdanos will speak about the Islamic State’s trafficking in looted antiquities and the global... Learn more
International Observatory for Cultural Heritage
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
Roundtable Discussion
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
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
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
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
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
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
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