Museum Director Promotes Partnership with Italian Museum

Alex Barker speaking at EUNIC in Washington, D.C.
Jordan Yount
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Departments: 
Art History
Museum of Art and Archaeology

In 2014, the Capitoline Museums of Rome and the City of Rome launched a partnership with the University of Missouri to study a treasure trove of ancient artifacts that had been stored in the Italian museum for more than a century. Under the Hidden Treasure of Rome project, artifacts are shipped to MU’s Museum of Art and Archaeology for detailed analysis and documentation. After groups of objects have been exhaustively studied, they are returned along with the accompanying results, and another group of objects takes their place. Currently, staff of the museum and MU faculty and students are studying 249 black-gloss vessels from the Republican era of Rome, dating from the fourth to the first centuries BCE. The project offers students and scholars unprecedented access to previously unstudied ancient objects from the center of ancient Rome.  The University of Missouri was chosen to develop the pilot project for emulation at museums and universities nationwide. 

black-gloss vessels

When the agreement was announced, Museum Director Alex Barker said the project played to the MU museum’s strengths. “We have a classical archaeology doctoral program in the Department of Art History and Archaeology with excellent faculty; an American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum with recognized expertise in archaeology and the antique world; and one of the nation’s best archaeometric laboratories at the MU Research Reactor, capable of performing detailed analysis on a wide range of materials.”

On March 23, Barker discussed the collaborative agreement between the Capitoline Museums and MU at a conference organized by the European Union National Institutes for Culture in Washington, D.C. The Department of State and the Embassy of Italy had invited Barker to speak about the partnership and the ways it advanced the international collaborations promised under Article II of the revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the U.S. and the Italian republic concerning protection of cultural heritage.

Barker notes the U.S. is a signatory to the 1970 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention of the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. These protections are accomplished through bilateral agreements (MOUs) with other nations. Barker says there are currently 16 such MOUs. 

The MOU between the U.S. and Italy was extended for a third time January 19, and Barker testified at the Department of State last year in favor of the extension. 

“The main revisions to the MOU involved the expansion of the kinds of objects covered, and additional provisions in Article II that promote precisely the kinds of scholarly exchanges and collaborations we’ve piloted for other universities and museums through the Hidden Treasures of Rome project,” Barker says.

The ongoing project is being funded by Enel Green Power North America, a leading renewable energy company with more than 90 projects in the United States and Canada.

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