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 the monuments, artifacts, and traditions of the past. 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 (Columbia), "Iconoclasia y Iconodulia: Culto y Violencia en torno a la imagen sagrada y sacralizada"
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.
The digitization of Avery Library’s unparalleled holdings of the works of Sebastiano Serlio, on Avery’s website and through the Getty Research Portal.
Two to four Fellowships each year, devoted to the understanding and conservation of architecture in any geographic area and period.