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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
The collection consists of the directors' records of the Casa Italiana and later the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. It includes administrative files, correspondence, event files, press clippings, conference and awards materials, and a selection of campus architectural drawings and studies.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Restrictions on Access
All administrative records of the University are restricted for 25 years from the date of creation.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
The RBML cannot provide access to original time-based media material which has not been first been reformatted for preservation. Researchers are welcome to examine archival time-based media items and decide whether they wish to place an order for Audio/Video reformatting. If copyright and/or condition restrictions apply, it may not be possible to digitize a requested item. Please note that A/V reformatting is handled by an outside vendor and typically takes 6-8 weeks.
Terms Governing Use and Reproduction
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Italian Academy records; Box and Folder; University Archives, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University Libraries.
Materials related to the Casa Italiana, Center for Italian Studies, the Italian Academy and even for the Circolo Italiano can be found in the Historical subject files (UA#0002). For information about the founding and then the running of the Casa, please consult the Peter M. Riccio papers (MS#1068). Administrative records can be found in Central Files (UA#0001) and the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs records (UA#0083). For information about the landmark building, please consult the Buildings and grounds collection (UA#0125).
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Collection-level record describing unprocessed material made public in summer 2018 as part of the Hidden Collections initiative. This collection was processed by Joanna Rios, April to June 2021.
2021-06-25 Content list published (JR)
History / Biographical Note
Columbia was the first United States university to offer classes in the Italian language (Lorenzo Da Ponte, 1825, Mozart's librettist) and the first to host an academic center for Italian studies (Casa Italiana, 1927). Established in 1991, the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America supports research in Italian studies, promotes research exchanges between Italian and American universities, and hosts 20 residential scholars each year. The Academy also hosts conferences, concerts, films, exhibits, and theatrical productions.
In the 1920s, following the example of the Maison Francaise (1910, the oldest foreign language center at a U.S. university), Peter Riccio and his friends, all undergraduates, started the Circolo Italiano, a student society to promote Italian studies and to establish an Italian library. With the support of President Nicholas Murray Butler, the Trustees, members of the Italian Department and others (including then-Prime Minister Benito Mussolini), the Casa Italiana was inaugurated on October 12, 1927 (Columbus Day). The Casa housed the Paterno Library, rich in collections of rare and up-to-date literary and periodical publications. Under the direction of Prof. Giuseppe Prezzolini for a whole decade (1930-1940), the Casa Italiana attracted a large number of students and visitors and served as a center of scholarly and educational activity. Even new literary publications were launched.
In 1939, when Italian Renaissance scholar Paul Oskar Kristeller arrived in New York, the Casa Italiana provided him with an apartment, an office and space for his private library. But with the outbreak of WWII, development and expansion in Italian studies came to a sudden and definite halt. The Casa then served as the campus war relief center or the United War Relief Headquarters, with a popular gift shop and sales of homemade baked goods (jellies, candies, and cakes during sugar shortages), books and magazines. The Casa was the place volunteers could make appointments to donate blood and/or plasma in the mobile blood bank unit of the American Red Cross. Volunteers also prepared surgical dressings and made clothing for civilian relief.
In the post-WWII era, the Casa entered a period of transition, balancing its original mission with the growing needs to maintain the six-story Renaissance-style palazzo designed by McKim, Mead and White and constructed in 1927. In 1957, the Casa raised funds for the building's physical maintenance, which at that point included the offices of the Department of Italian, classrooms, a library, lecture halls and reception room facilities. On October 13, 1957, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed it as "Casa Italiana Day," in honor of the thirtieth anniversary of the study center. On March 28, 1978, during its 50th anniversary, the building was designated a New York City landmark. In 1980, the Casa was reborn as the Center for Italian Studies, established to increase American understanding of contemporary life in Italy.
In 1990, the Italian government took title to the Casa building and now leases it back to the University for a nominal sum to operate the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. The new Italian Academy was created as a center for broad-based intellectual collaboration between Italian and American scholars, under the direction of Maristella de Panizza Lorch, a professor in the Italian department at Barnard and Columbia for over 40 years. In 1994, the building underwent a two-year renovation project, including a thorough interior reconstruction to provide modern facilities for the Italian Academy. The Department of Italian moved to the fifth floor of Hamilton Hall and the holdings of the Paterno Library moved to Butler Library. The renovated Casa, including a salon, dining room, a new library, a restored theater, and studioli or offices for the Academy fellows, was inaugurated in May 1996.
Past directors of the Casa Italiana and the Italian Academy have included: Giuseppe Prezzolini, Harry Morgan Ayres, John Kraut, Leopold Arnaud, Shepard Bancroft Clough, Peter M. Riccio, John Faggi, Joan Ferrante, Maristella Lorch, Richard Brilliant and David Freedberg.