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Archives are often perceived as stagnant record collections that only belong in museums and libraries. An archive’s function as evidence, however, supports its utility in preserving “institutional memory,” or the information about an institution’s history and culture through its members' individual experiences and recollections. A well-preserved institutional memory prevents the risk of leaving long-term cases unresolved, long-term projects unfinished, and access to information delayed. Due to limited resources, the maintenance of institutional records may not always be prioritized, thus creating a gap in institutional memory. The American Academy in Rome (AAR) and the American Numismatic Society (ANS) are two important institutions for cultural heritage research and preservation that maintain several archives spanning decades of both internal records and external research collections. Gaps in institutional memory play a key role in a repatriation case involving both the AAR and the ANS. Nearly 70 years ago, an American archaeologist and AAR Prize Fellow Doris Taylor Bishop aimed to preserve and research an ancient Roman coin hoard, the Capalbio hoard, by attempting to legally export it from Tuscany to the United States. Years later, Italian authorities alleged that the Superintendent of Antiquities did not permit their exportation, and subsequently asked for their return. What ensued was a multi-year endeavor to return the coins to Italy, however the coins remain in America at the ANS today. Members of both institutions cannot explain why the coins have not been repatriated. By examining the Capalbio correspondences and interviewing members of both institutions, my research produces a comprehensive narrative of the case. This analysis will explore not only the history of the legalities concerning the acquisition and exportation of Italian antiquities, but the issues surrounding unstandardized archival practices that result in the fragmented inheritance of institutions’ memories.
Robbins, G. A. (2022). A Lost Return: Institutional Memory and Repatriation in the Capalbio Hoard Correspondences. Retrieved from https://purl.lib.fsu.edu/diginole/FSU_libsubv1_scholarship_submission_1650438195_7107395d