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, conservation, and use 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).


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.


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; digital exhibitions; and books, including A Shared Global Heritage: Architectural History, Conservation, and Preservation (Barbara Faedda, ed.; Italian Academy Publications, 2023) and A Lost Mediterranean Culture: The Giant Statues of Sardinia's Mont'e Prama (Barbara Faedda and Paolo Carta, eds.; Columbia University Press, 2023).

Roundtable    April 9, 2024
Gallery Exhibition (ongoing)    April 9, 2024
New Reports from Sardinia’s UNESCO Site: Nuragic Culture in Barumini

Book Publication    November 14, 2023 
A Shared Global Heritage: Architectural History, Conservation, and Preservation
Italian Academy Publications

Online Digital Exhibition (ongoing)   September 8, 2023 
The Ancient City of Tharros

Book Publication    May 17, 2023 
A Lost Mediterranean Culture: The Giant Statues of Sardinia's Mont'e Prama 
Columbia University Press

Gallery Exhibition   April 12, 2023 
The Ancient City of Tharros: Rich Tombs and Extensive Ruins from Punic and Roman Times

Roundtable    April 12, 2023
The Ancient City of Tharros: Rich Tombs and Extensive Ruins from Punic and Roman Times

Symposium   November 11, 2022
African Photography: The Ethics of Looking and Collecting in the Age of Restitution

Online Digital Exhibition (ongoing)   April 15, 2022 onward 
The Giant Heroes of Mont'e Prama: Recovering Ancient Sardinian Heritage 

Symposium   November 11, 2021
Environment, Climate, and Cultural Heritage: Native American Perspectives

Interview    May 7, 2021
The Role of the Carabinieri in the Protection of Global Cultural Heritage

Symposium    April 9, 2021
The Benin Bronzes: Towards the Resolution of a Long-Standing Dispute?

Conference    March 27, 2020
The Giants of Mont'e Prama (postponed)

Symposium    October 18, 2019
The Restitution Debate: African Art in a Global Society

Workshop    October 3, 2019
Cultural Heritage Practices & Critical Fashion Theory

Exhibition    October 3, 2019
"Full of Enthusiasm": American Buyers Captured by Italian Fashion in the 1950s

Symposium    March 8, 2019
Resisting, Reclaiming, Reframing: Indigenous Communities of North America and Art Museum Collections 

Symposium    October 11, 2018
From Res Nullius to Terra Nullius: Revisiting Indigenous Histories, Legal Systems and Land Rights in the Naqab

Exhibition    October 10, 2018
Ground Truth: Testimonies of Destruction and Return in Al-Araqib 

Lecture    April 5, 2018
The Iraq Museum, ISIS, and Antiquities Trafficking (Matthew Bogdanos, NY Assistant District Attorney)

Symposium    March 27, 2018
Threatened Heritage in Utah and New Mexico: Bears Ears, Chaco, and other Native American Sacred Sites 

Symposium     February 16, 2018
Cultural Heritage in Conflict Zones: Syria and the world (James Cuno, Getty Trust; Vishakha Desai, Columbia; Edward Luck, Columbia; Thomas Weiss, CUNY Graduate Center; Mariët Westermann, Mellon Foundation)

Symposium    February 8, 2018
Spaces and Geographies of Concentration Camps in Italy and across Europe  (Holocaust Remembrance)

Lecture October 19, 2017
Italy’s Role in International Cultural Conservation: Syria, Middle East, and Beyond (Dario Franceschini, Italian Minister of Cultural Heritage)

Lecture October 19, 2017
On the New Museum of Italian Judaism and the Shoah (Dario Disegni, President of the Museum)

Exhibition    October 16, 2017
War and Art: Destruction and Protection of Italian Art during WWI

Lecture    April 20, 2017
Greek and Roman Drawing in the Renaissance Imagination (Salvatore Settis

Lecture    March 23, 2017
The 2016 Archaeological Campaign at Hadrian’s Villa

Symposium    February 8, 2017
Looted Art, Nazism, and Fascism in Germany and Italy (Holocaust Remembrance)

Exhibition    October 18, 2016
Landscapes and Artifacts in Syria and Iraq (Photographs by Massimiliano Gatti) 

Weinberg Fellowship

The Sidney J. Weinberg Jr. Foundation supports four Fellows each year in studying the conservation of architecture of all geographic areas and periods, including crisis management and war destruction.

Sardinia Cultural Heritage Project

Supported by the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, with collaboration from the Mont’e Prama Foundation, this project includes a book from Columbia University Press and an online digital exhibition—on the statues of Mont’e Prama—as well as a gallery show and a conference on the Tharros site. In a linked initiative, the Academy facilitated the loan of a colossal statue to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (on display from May 2023).

Burke Fellowship

This project addresses the common challenges faced by Italy and Japan in the conservation and preservation of cultural heritage, in collaboration with the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Japanese Art at Columbia’s Department of Art History and Archaeology.

Amatrice in Focus: Earthquakes and Photography—Recording the Past, Planning the Future

A digital exhibition on the earthquake-damaged town of Amatrice and the fate of its cultural heritage. Developed by former Fellow Francesco Gangemi, in collaboration with the Bibliotheca Hertziana – Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte, and with the Soprintendenza archeologia del Lazio as an official partner.

Digital Serlio Project

Based at Columbia’s Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, an international team has digitized and analyzed Sebastiano Serlio’s works. Funding for research and scholarship is provided by the Sidney J. Weinberg, Jr. Foundation and by the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust.

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.

Advanced Program of Ancient History and Art

The Italian Academy served as incubator for this global Columbia program created with the University of Rome’s H2CU. At Hadrian’s Villa, APAHA trains junior scholars in advanced archaeology.

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