Reviewed February 2019
Elizabeth Fairall, Digital Services Librarian
Palm Beach Atlantic University
The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma is a web-based project of the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, created in collaboration with the Archivio di Stato di Roma and the Accademia Nazionale di San Luca. While the website contains works of art by artists who worked and studied at the Accademia, such as Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Domenichino, and Orazio Gentileschi, these individuals are not the main focus of this resource. Rather, it is an institutional history of the Accademia di San Luca, which includes the notaries, the clergy, the patrons, and the artists who created the Accademia and helped it grow into a renowned school.
Originally launched in 2010, the website was recently redesigned and can be viewed in English or Italian. The Introduction page contextualizes the project by offering a brief history of the Accademia, a link to an extensive bibliography, and a listing of the types of documents that users can find on the website. These documents include lists of members, rental agreements, records of transactions with workers, inventories of the collections, and additional papers that demonstrate the growing importance of the institution from its incorporation in 1593 through 1635. The digitization of these documents delivers a broader access to little-known manuscripts, many of which were previously unpublished and thought to be lost.
Users can search the documents by personal name, place, key term, type of document, notary, and year. The metadata that accompanies each document is comprehensive and makes it easy to learn more about the topic being researched. While other websites, such as Images of Rome: The Rodolfo Lanciani Digital Archive, provide the option to browse their collections or do basic keyword searches, the level of granularity within the search offered here appears to be atypical. It is also useful to note that for each category on the Search page, a dropdown menu is provided listing names and terms with alternate spellings.
Once a user selects a document, the typed transcription is displayed adjacent to a high resolution image of the original manuscript. As noted on the Introduction page, the transcribers used a modified version of Alessandro Guidotti's "Le norme di trascrizione," Rivista d'arte 37 (1984): 377–399. The inclusion of the transcription conventions followed provides a level of transparency for the user to understand how the transcriptions were made, which in turn allows for a more critical approach to the interpretation of the documents. However, since this information is only available on the Introduction page, users who skim the Introduction and proceed directly to the document pages may miss out on this contextual information.
When conducting a personal name search, users are able to discover pages for artists associated with the Accademia. Each page contains links to documents, a bibliography, and works of art by the artist that are owned by the National Gallery of Art. These images are available via the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), which allows users to view images in an IIIF compatible program of their choosing. Additional works by the artist that are owned by other organizations can be found on the website’s Images page. A potential area for improvement would be to have all of the works by an artist displayed on that artist’s page. This would permit users to see an artist’s entire oeuvre in one location, which, when studied within the context of the documents found on this website, would allow for a more complete interpretation of the artist’s career.
Overall, the History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma is a robust resource that brings together primary documents and works of art from multiple organizations to offer a comprehensive overview of an important institution and the people who were part of it. By offering these resources in one easy-to-access location, this website provides the serious researcher with the context necessary to more fully interpret the Accademia di San Luca and the artists and individuals who made their living working and teaching at it.