Thousands of Rome’s historical images digitized
A team including Stanford researchers digitized thousands of pieces from 19th-century archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani’s collection to help scholars across the world study Rome’s transformation over the centuries.
The exhibit, which recently went online, consists of almost 4,000 digitized drawings, prints, photographs and sketches of historic Rome from the 16th to 20th centuries. The pieces were collected by renowned Roman archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani, who sought to document the entire history of Rome’s archeology up to the end of the 19th century.
After Lanciani’s death in 1929, his library, which contains more than 21,000 items, was sold to the Istituto Nazionale di Archeologia e Storia dell’Arte (Italy’s National Institute of Archaeology and Art History) in Rome. Before now, reviewing the archive was much more difficult. It required a visit to the historic 15th-century Palazzo Venezia in central Rome. Lanciani’s collection is on the fourth floor and in its own dedicated room, which is open for only a few hours during weekdays. Only one folder from the collection can be viewed at a time.
Supported by a 2015 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, the team partnered with Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities and Tourism and the National Institute to scan and create high-resolution images of each of the thousands of materials in the collection. Each digital object was categorized and tied to a descriptive set of data, so it could be properly stored and searched online. The digital images and all associated descriptions are now permanently preserved in the Stanford Digital Repository.