20.7 Working as an academic researcher in beautiful Italian libraries

Deborah Howard (Cambridge University).

Deborah Howard’s view of the Malatestiana in Cesena, Italy.

How many of our researchers in our libraries would say “Working there is pure joy!”? Author of The Architectural History of Venice (Yale, 2002), and several other books on the architectural and musical spaces of that city, Professor Howard gave an energetic , engaging and enthusiastic talk about what it is like to be a researcher in the libraries and archives of Italian cities such as Venice, Florence and Rome.

Alberti talks about the objective beauty of architecture to be found in a building’s proportions and forms, but Professor Howard confessed that she believes in the subjective beauty of libraries, where buildings affect all the five senses, as researchers carry out their work. Professor Howard went on to describe in detail various libraries where she has undertaken research in Italy, and the various merits of each. It was clear that Professor Howard has a passion for Italian architecture and we were reminded that the aesthetic surroundings in a library can and do affect the quality of research that can be undertaken in them. Even if we are not all able to be responsible for such amazing spaces and collections as the Biblioteca Marciana (http://marciana.venezia.sbn.it/ ), Biblioteca Malatestiana (http://www.malatestiana.it/ ), Biblioteca Laurenziana (http://www.bml.firenze.sbn.it/index_ing.htm ), or Giorgio Cini Foundation library “Nuova Manica Lunga” (http://www.cini.it/en/biblioteche ), we should bear in mind when creating our library environments that researchers do want calm, quiet, peaceful environments with efficient, speedy and un-bureaucratic services. We were told that the Biblioteca Hertziana in Rome contains probably the best art history library collection in Italy, if not the world, and it was helpful to be told about KUBIKAT (the Digital collective catalogue of the Art Libraries Network Florence-Paris-Munich-Rome. The holdings of the Bibliotheca Hertziana are included in full as a subset of the catalogue.) See http://www.biblhertz.it/en/library/
The Library and collections of the Museo Correr Venice was Professor Howard’s favourite. See http://correr.visitmuve.it/en/il-museo/servizi-agli-studiosi/photographic-archive-2/

Seeing the “earthly paradise” of the Villa I Tatti, Florence, (housing the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies’ Berenson Library, see http://itatti.harvard.edu/ ) and sharing in Professor Howard’s knowledge and enthusiasm, was a real pleasure.
Review by: Jane Furness, Edinburgh College of Art at the University of Edinburgh



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