The Archive

The papers of the Committee to Rescue Italian Art that are known still to exist are held by  the Berenson Library at Villa I Tatti by virtue of I Tatti’s central role in the organization’s activities in Florence. The bulk of the archive was left by Myron P. Gilmore, Director of I Tatti from 1964, and a member of the Advisory Committee of CRIA from its inception. He retired as Director in June, 1973, a few months after the closure of CRIA’s Florentine office at the conclusion of the Committee’s work. I Tatti at the time lacked a proper archive and an archivist, and the papers ended up being stored in a wooden crate and largely forgotten. They were discovered in one of the farmhouses on the I Tatti estate thirty years later, in 2003. Their significance for the still untold story of the restoration efforts after the flood was immediately apparent. 

Most of the papers preserved in the crate were produced by the Florentine office of CRIA at Palazzo Pitti. Presumably the papers were conveyed to I Tatti when the office shut down. Reflecting the organizational and administration functions of this office, the documents consist largely of invoices, receipts, reimbursements to various firms and individuals, rich files of correspondence, and reports. 

Another collection of CRIA documents now held by the Berenson Library includes materials of a more scholarly nature that were produced at I Tatti by Myron Gilmore and by Millard Meiss, who was chairman of CRIA’s Advisory Committee and Acting Director of I Tatti from January to June 1967. These papers were originally filed among I Tatti’s institutional records but now constitute a separate collection of the CRIA archive. They are enriched by a large group of photographs formerly held in the Photo Archive of the Biblioteca Berenson. 

The surviving CRIA papers now at I Tatti are certainly not the only documentation of the Committee’s activities that was produced. The crucial fund-raising initiatives of CRIA were headquartered in an office in New York, headed by Bates Lowry. Despite active research, the papers of the New York office have not yet surfaced. 

Including precious information on recovery efforts and detailed reports on restoration projects, the CRIA resources at the Biblioteca Berenson illustrate the damage to the cultural heritage of Florence, capture the impassioned response by scholars and restorers, and preserve a record of the remarkable work of the Committee to Rescue Italian Art .

Finding aids to the Papers, 1966-1973, of the Committee to Rescue Italian Art: