AIRC engages daily with the history, conservation, excavation, and digital documentation of Rome (through video, social media, etc.), in places such as the Roman Forum and Ostia Antica. AIRC has unique partnerships with the Italian Ministry of Culture (MiBAC) and other prominent academic and cultural entities. AIRC’s faculty and staff are based full-time in Rome and have lived/ worked there for nearly 50 years combined. AIRC operated a month-long undergraduate study program for the College of the Holy Cross for five years with great success, introducing more than 100 enthusiastic students to the marvels of the Eternal City. No other institution in Rome has AIRC’s track record and relationships.
Even after 2800 years of continuous habitation the city of Rome continues to excite interest around the world, and Rome’s timeless culture remains a reference-point in numerous academic fields. This course—an abbreviated version of AIRC’s innovative semester program in History, Media, and Cultural Heritage—peels back the layers of Rome’s complex history by relying on a wide variety of disciplines and approaches, led by archaeologists, historians, and experts in communication. Students will gain insights into Rome’s appeal through its ever-relevant past. Besides gaining a grasp of the overall historical framework, main protagonists, and key sites and collections, students will learn through on-site exploration and study, including hot topics such as digital/virtual archaeology (latest immersive displays in new sites) and media and video production. Students will come away with a solid grasp of the layout of the modern and ancient city, its history, and its development through time, as well as the main contemporary approaches to Roman archaeology.
The course examines the politics, economics, religion, social structure, daily life, physical infrastructure, art, and historical development of Rome, from its beginning to the 6th century AD. The morning on-site lectures will also offer numerous opportunities to discuss important issues such as conservation/ preservation of cultural heritage, new and ongoing excavations, technology and media in the humanities, and the museum experience
In the afternoons we will visit ongoing recent excavations and conservation projects across the city in order to learn the latest discoveries, observe the various approaches to documentation, analysis, presentation, and preservation, and discuss them with the project directors. We will visit the most significant museums, both historic and new, to study their collections and discuss their display strategies with the directors and curators. The course will also offer students an introduction to important disciplines affiliated with archaeology such as artifact studies, paleobotany, geology/geomorphology, remote sensing of the environment (aerial photography, geophysical prospection), and the application of digital technologies to archaeology (video documentation, laser positioning and scanning, virtual reality, photogrammetry, geographic information systems), as well as to emerging sub-fields such as speleo-archaeology.
Students will furthermore learn about the more mundane, but nevertheless fundamental, aspects of doing archaeology in Rome. How are the two Roman archaeological services (municipal and national) structured and operated? Which sites are managed by each service? How is an application for a research project involving access to museum collections or excavation prepared and submitted? How are photographic reproduction rights obtained? How do the Italian and international laws on cultural heritage function as deterrents to illegal trafficking of artifacts? Where are the major research libraries located, and how is access to them obtained?
We will see Rome’s incredible layered past during the site visits, from its humble origins to the end of the empire and the onset of the Late Antique and Medieval periods. Being in Rome, we will trace the development of the city and how Romans perceived their city and continually labored to preserve and reinvent it over time. The course looks at Roman topography, i.e., the man-made and natural landscape of the city, which was preserved or changed according to a number of socio-political and religious needs. During on-site visits, we will view the ancient monuments in their original urban contexts and evaluate the changes that took place to those structures over time.
Lectures on Roman History
Following a rough chronological framework, students will become familiar with the key historical developments and the individuals that shaped the political and natural landscape.
As a result of the course, students, having assessed and comprehended the key sources relating to the development of the city, will have attained a comprehensive, objective understanding of the major individuals and events that shaped ancient Rome, the material and intellectual culture they left behind, and the major contemporary approaches to the city and Roman culture. In addition, students will have gained a comprehensive view of the current state of archaeology in Rome, including methods/ techniques/ approaches, active research, and museum collections.
Note: As AIRC is not a degree-granting institution, it cannot provide credit for this course. However, upon successful completion of the course AIRC can provide interested students with documentation supporting a request for credit from their home institution.
A. Claridge, Rome. An Oxford Archaeological Guide. 2nd ed. Oxford 2010.
Course packet with handouts and maps for daily lectures.
Partial List of Museums, Archaeological Sites, and Special Visits Included in the Program
Ara Pacis Museum
Capitoline Museums (including Montemartini Museum)
Imperial Fora Museum in Trajan's Markets
National Roman Museum system (Crypta Balbi, Museo delle Terme, Palazzo Altemps, Palazzo Massimo)
Ostia Antica (including AIRC excavation and conservation projects)
Palatine Hill (University of Rome excavations)
Palazzo Valentini domus
Park of the Aqueducts
Sant'Ombono (University of Michigan/University of Calabria excavations)
Via Appia Antica
Villa Giulia Museum
Villa of the Quintilii
Click here to download a PDF description of this program.
To apply for this program, click here to access the online application form.
For more information about this program, send an e-mail to studyabroad[at]romanculture.org.