New Digital Archive Puts Online 4,000 Historic Images of Rome: The Eternal City from the 16th to 20th Centuries

The poet Tibul­lus first described Rome as “The Eter­nal City” in the first cen­tu­ry BC, and that evoca­tive nick­name has stuck over the thou­sands of years since. Or rather, he would have called it “Urbs Aeter­na,” which for Ital­ian-speak­ers would have been “La Cit­tà Eter­na,” but regard­less of which lan­guage you pre­fer it in, it throws down a daunt­ing chal­lenge before any his­to­ri­an of Rome. Each schol­ar has had to find their own way of approach­ing such a his­tor­i­cal­ly for­mi­da­ble place, and few have built up such a robust visu­al record as Rodol­fo Lan­ciani, 4000 items from whose col­lec­tion became avail­able to view online this year, thanks to Stan­ford Libraries.

As an “archae­ol­o­gist, pro­fes­sor of topog­ra­phy, and sec­re­tary of the Archae­o­log­i­cal Com­mis­sion,” says the col­lec­tion’s about page, Lan­ciani, “was a pio­neer in the sys­tem­at­ic, mod­ern study of the city of Rome.”

Hav­ing lived from 1845 to 1929 with a long and fruit­ful career to match, he “col­lect­ed a vast archive of his own notes and man­u­scripts, as well as works by oth­ers includ­ing rare prints and orig­i­nal draw­ings by artists and archi­tects stretch­ing back to the six­teenth cen­tu­ry.” After he died, his whole library found a buy­er in the Isti­tu­to Nazionale di Arche­olo­gia e Sto­ria dell’Arte (INASA), which made it avail­able to researchers at the 15th-cen­tu­ry Palaz­zo Venezia in Rome.

Enter a team of pro­fes­sors, archae­ol­o­gists, and tech­nol­o­gists from Stan­ford and else­where, who with a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foun­da­tion, and in part­ner­ship with Italy’s Min­istry of Cul­tur­al Her­itage and Activ­i­ties and Tourism and the Nation­al Insti­tute, began dig­i­tiz­ing it all. Their efforts have so far yield­ed an exhi­bi­tion of about 4,000 of Lan­cian­i’s draw­ings, prints, pho­tographs and sketch­es of Rome from the 16th cen­tu­ry to the 20th. Not only can you exam­ine them in high-res­o­lu­tion in your brows­er as well as down­load them, you can also see the loca­tions of what they depict pin­point­ed on the map of Rome. That fea­ture might come in espe­cial­ly handy when next you pay a vis­it to The Eter­nal City, though for many of the fea­tures depict­ed in Lan­cian­i’s col­lec­tion, you hard­ly need direc­tions. Enter the dig­i­tal col­lec­tion here.

via Stan­ford News

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Rome in 179 Pod­casts

Ancient Rome’s Sys­tem of Roads Visu­al­ized in the Style of Mod­ern Sub­way Maps

How Did the Romans Make Con­crete That Lasts Longer Than Mod­ern Con­crete? The Mys­tery Final­ly Solved

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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