Peter N. Miller: What Is an “American” Academy in Rome?

Color photograph of a light skinned man in a blue suit standing at a podium delivering a lecture; an audience of several dozen people sit in chairs, and a PowerPoint slideshow is projected on a wall
Peter N. Miller speaks at the American Academy in Rome on September 12

Last week AAR President Peter N. Miller delivered his first talk to a packed lecture room at the American Academy in Rome. Over one hundred others watched in the overflow area in the Cryptoporticus, just outside the lecture room.

Entitled “National Academy or Research Institute? Opportunities for an American Academy in Rome in the Twenty-First Century,” Miller’s lecture described how Rome became a city of national academies, discussed the institutionalized legacy of the Grand Tour, and posed the question: What is an American Academy in Rome?

Beginning with the French Academy in 1666, Miller said, these academies hosted artists and architects who were believed to need intimate contact with works and sites. Research institutes for scholars were founded decades later, beginning with what became the German Archaeological Institute in 1829. For both France and Germany, the creative and academic functions remain separate even today. In the case of the American Academy in Rome, founded in 1894, they were fused.

Miller reflected on the role for national academies today, when some of the notions upon which they were founded—the meanings of Rome, Academy, Institute, and even discipline—are in flux. He concluded that the Roman institutional scene’s richness—far from an outmoded legacy—offers enormous resources for rethinking research in the twenty-first century.

Miller’s lecture was followed by the Opening Reception, where Academy staff, trustees, and friends welcomed the incoming class of Rome Prize Fellows.

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