The Bio-iconographic Archive


The acquisition of material for the Bio-iconographic Archive began long before its official birth with the founding of the Institute on August 13, 1883 at the original location in via Nazionale, today the Exhibition Palace - Palazzo delle Esposizioni.

The collection, absolutely unique to the GNAM, conserves artistic documentation from the 19th Century onwards through the collection, conservation and cataloguing of prints, invitations to openings, art posters, flyers, small catalogues, manifestos, photos of works etc.

The Archives method of accumulation has been varied; the traditional and most conspicuous has been through subscription to the Eco della Stampa, an agency of journalistic service for the collection of press releases specifically interested in modern and contemporary art. Additionally a spontaneous form of collection thrives through a direct relationship between living artists or their families which have often provided unique materials, sometimes impossible to obtain otherwise.

Today the material collected is of such a heterogeneous nature that not even an approximate quantification has been possible. Nonetheless it is believed that there are millions of pieces. Since 1999 the reception of press materials has been via digital channels. This new method has allowed for accuracy in journalistic collection and above all a more rapid and detailed management of such materials.

The Archive consists of two large sections: the monographic section where the material is collected under the name of the artist to whom it refers and is then further divided into a biographical section (so-called minor material). For this there currently exists a paper index and a digital one in the making. The iconographic sector (photos, colour copies, slides, etc.) and the thematic section which collects materials concerning every sector of modern art are divided according to a precise classification system.

The system maintained its original structure from its founding until 1979 and has since been renovated. It now follows standards which take into account new requirements but has not changed its basic organization.

The categories are 57 in number, a number of these are further divided, adding up to a total of 448 titles.

In October of 1999 the Bio-iconographic Archive joined the consortium B.A.I.C.R. (The Librarian, Archival and Cultural Institutes of Rome) as part of the "Twentieth Century Archives" project designed to create an digitalized archive with specialized data banks available for consultation via the Internet and, since 2003, present on the site Archives of the Twentieth Century - Memory on Line: