Beyond the Past: sponsoring cultural heritage in Rome

marforioThe other day, as I viewed the new exhibit, L'eta' dell'equilibrio, in the Capitoline Museums, I pleasantly came across the ongoing conservation project of the Marforio statue in the courtyard of the Braccio Nuovo.   The colossal, reclining river god became one of Rome's most famous "talking statues" and was located in the Roman Forum before being transferred to the Capitoline Hill. The sponsor is Swarovski, and its 100,000 euro contribution represents a new phenomenon that I predict will constitute a growing trend, for the benefit of Rome, Italy, and cultural heritage at large.  The German luxury brand joins the ranks of other, related sponsors, including, most noticeably, Tod's, which gave a 25 million euro donation for the Colosseum sponsorship and Laura Biagiotti in 2007 which gave 200,000 euros, for the fountains of Piazza Farnese. Although the Tod's contribution is not without headaches and pitfalls, the more that such agreements are made, and clearly delineated, the greater the success.

Other, related sponsorships that have have been conducted successfully include the American Express Foundation's longstanding support for World Monuments Fund, involved in Rome projects Santa Maria Antiqua, Temple of Hercules and Temple of Portunus in the Forum Boarium.  (AmEx Foundation also gave my organization the funding to study and excavate in the Park of the Aqueducts, an undervalued and understudied area of ancient Rome's suburbium.)  Another example is the Alda Fendi Foundation's important excavation and preservation of an important section of the Basilica Ulpia in the Forum of Trajan. As cool and avant-garde as these initiatives are, however, they are largely absent in the social media discourse.  It is truly a missed opportunity since these great projects  easily can be formatted into readily consumable packages of visualization, like Instagram photos and short videos, to further their impact on the public, always interested in cultural heritage and its preservation.  It's time to change that and make #culturalheritage trendy.