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Archiving the Academies of Early Modern Italy: Critical methodologies and digital tools

Centre for Critical Heritage Studies / Centre for Early Modern Exchanges

This one-day symposium aims to interrogate from multidisciplinary perspectives the forms, state and meanings of the archival materials relating to the over 800 academies, or learned societies, which flourished in Italy in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These institutions formed a significant and influential aspect of social and intellectual culture, cultivating a variety of interests across the arts and sciences. Often operating at a remove from official institutions like universities, political and religious bodies, academies offered a more flexible, apparently ‘freer’ form of association. Members could sometimes include women and artisans, as well as several foreign intellectuals, leading to the formation of extensive academic networks across Europe.

While the networks, members and printed books associated with nearly 600 Italian academies can now be searched via the Italian Academies Database, a fuller scholarly understanding of the rich and sometimes heterodox contributions of these institutions to cultural production and social interactions requires access also to related manuscript and archival sources. Currently, such materials are often lost from sight because of the sheer quantity and variety of surviving data and its geographical dispersal. This is also a result of academies often being short-lived and marginal to official culture, and their invisibility in cataloguing systems.

This symposium will therefore explore the state of preservation and critical significance of archival documentation on academies by bringing together an interdisciplinary team of scholars from the fields of archive studies, digital humanities and early modern studies. The intention is to challenge historical perspectives on academies and explore new methodologies and possibilities for modelling future research and sustainable digital resources.

Further details will be available in due course. Attendance is free but booking is required. Please email the organiser, Lisa Sampson, if you have any particular access or dietary requirements.

Confirmed speakers

Alessio Assonitis (Medici Archive Project, Florence), Luca Beltrami (Università di Genova), Roberta Ferro (Università Cattolica di Milano), Matthew Symonds (UCL), Simone Testa (Medici Archive Project)

Keynote speaker: Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck)

Roundtable chair: Jane Everson (Royal Holloway)

Organizer: Lisa Sampson, UCL (

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