Forgotten images of 1930s Rome reappear at RU Classics


Morpurgo’s pavilion for the Ara Pacis in summer (?)1938 (note interior scaffolding)

The Rutgers Classics lantern slide collection consists of more than 1000 original exposures taken in the 1930s as part of archaeological research done in Italy, Greece, and Turkey, by faculty members of the New Jersey College for Women—now part of Rutgers and known as Douglass Residential College.

The collection—which we thought we completely digitized a decade ago—provides a glimpse into the NJC academic and teaching culture of the 1930s, as well as American women in archaeology and ancient history in the pre-World War II era. For the dramatic story of how these images came into being, and then reemerged after a half-century or more of neglect, see this article in the 20 February 2006 issue of Rutgers Focus.

Well, last month another 150+ lantern slides cropped up in the department’s study collection, enhancing one of the core strengths of the collection, namely images of Mussolini’s Rome in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Here is a first glimpse at some of the “new” slides. The focus here is on the brutal “isolation” and restoration of the Mausoleum of Augustus (which functioned as a roofed concert hall until May 1936) and Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo’s pavilion for the Ara Pacis, inaugurated 23 September 1938—to cap the year-long national celebration of the 2000th anniversary of Augustus’ birth. Morpurgo’s structure of course has since seen demolition, to make way for Richard Meier’s 2006 Ara Pacis Museum.


Mausoleum of Augustus still functioning as a concert hall


Aerial view (commercial image) of the Mausoleum with “isolation” in progress


Preparing the Mausoleum for its grand re-opening, scheduled for 23 September 1938




NJ College for Women faculty members’s hand-drawn map showing relevant area


Morpurgo’s shell for the Ara Pacis, possibly late summer 1938 or summer 1939




The Res Gestae (still intact on Richard Meier’s 2006 recreation of the pavilion)


One of the boxes in which the “new” 1930s lantern slides were found

Working hard to put the finishing touches on the Rutgers Classics digital images collection—which in addition to the 1000+ lantern slides includes also close to 20,000 digitized 35mm slides—are 1st year Classics graduate student Emmanuel Aprilakis (BA Hunter College) and Classics post-bacc students Tyler Archer, Michaela Fore and Adam Kasarda (all BA Rutgers). The most important portions of the collection will soon see online publication.

More—indeed, much more—soon!

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