Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente
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Established in 1995, as the result of the merging of Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente (IsMEO) with the Istituto Italo-Africano (IIA), IsIAO has been presided over since its inception by Professor Gherardo Gnoli. The Institute is active in the field of cultural promotion aimed at fostering fruitful relations between Italy and the African and Asian countries. The aims of the Institute are: to establish and implement study and research projects; to promote cultural and scientific collaboration initiatives through the exchange of information, experience and knowledge among researchers and specialists; to implement cooperation, consultancy and assistance projects, with special regard to the conservation and promotion of the heritage of the Asian countries and to carry out missions and archaeological campaigns in these countries; to carry on publishing activities alone or in collaboration with other institutions, or with publishers; to enter into conventions or agreements providing for joint activities with universities, academies, cultural and research institutions in Italy and abroad.
Documentary Assets and Museum Collections
The IsIAO library, divided into two sections — African and Oriental — contains some two thousand five hundred periodical publications (five hundred of which still extant), rare and precious collections (manuscripts, xylographs, ancient editions, maps, photographic collections, etc.).
The Photograph Library: The African section inherited from the Ministry for Italian Africa, comprises some five-hundred thousand photographic prints and some twenty thousand negatives. The Oriental section includes five-hundred thousand photos shot during Institute missions. Approximately twelve thousand are the fruit of Giuseppe Tucci’s expeditions in the Himalayan region, with unique photos of Tibetan monuments that are not any longer existing.
The Map Library on the other hand is a rich collection comprising three thousand geographic maps for a total of fourteen thousand sheets, inherited from the Map Service of the Ministry for Italian Africa. The collection, which covers the last decade but one of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th, is the largest and most important of its kind in Italy and takes in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya in particular.
The Museum Collections are the Oriental collections, which are the property of the Institute and deposited in the ‘Giuseppe Tucci’ National Museum of Oriental Art in Rome, made up of material discovered during archaeological campaigns. The Gandhara art finds are extremely important. The African collections are conserved by the Institute include works by Italian artists who were active in the former colonies, Ethiopian paintings, wooden sculptures, documents and curios belonging to explorers, furnishings, local craftwork and archaeological materials.
Courses of African and Oriental Languages and Culture
Courses offered at IsIAO are a long and consolidated tradition. As far back as 1934 — under the presidency of Giovanni Gentile and the vice-presidency of Giuseppe Tucci — IsMEO was already running courses in Chinese language and in Japanese language in Rome. In the 1951, the so-called ‘Practical three-year courses of Oriental languages and cultures’ was formally instituted. The courses offered include Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian etc.
Ever since the 1950s, IsIAO has carried on an intense publishing activity which has so far led to the publication of more than 500 titles including monographs, critical editions of manuscripts written in oriental languages, excavation reports, conference proceedings and reviews. Worth mentioning in particular are:
- Serie Orientale Roma (101 titles)
- Reports and Memoirs (41 titles)
- Restorations (7 titles)
Among the periodicals:
- Africa, a quarterly in Italian, French and English (published 63 issues 1947-2008)
- East and West, a quarterly published in English (published 59 issues from 1950 to 2009)
The Institute’s Media Store went online in September 2008. All the books in the IsIAO publisher catalogue may be consulted and purchased at the site.
In order to carry on its activities and above all its scientific research, the Institute is involved in an international large network of agreements and memoranda stipulated over the years with European and Asian institutions. The Institute also has numerous corresponding fellows selected from among the most distinguished members of the international scientific world and makes use of their collaboration for the purpose of its research. IsIAO is currently active in the following countries: Afghanistan, People's Republic of China, Georgia, Japan, Jordan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mali, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Yemen.