The American Academy 1947–54, Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence

Harry B. Evans and Lawrence Richardson Jr.
Harry B. Evans (left) with Lawrence Richardson Jr.

The Academy has just published a personal memoir by Lawrence Richardson Jr., a 1950 Fellow, 1979 Resident, and Academy Trustee from 1969 to 1992, focusing on his years in Rome.

Thanks to the efforts of Trustee Rea Hederman and the enthusiastic support of the Publications Committee, The American Academy 1947–54, Reopening and Reorientation: A Personal Reminiscence covers Richardson’s experiences as a Fellow in classical studies; the launch and early seasons of the Academy’s excavations at Cosa; life in Rome and at the Academy itself; the Fellows, Residents, and staff in those years; and his own work on Roman painting and architecture at Pompeii. Photographs from the Academy Archives and Richardson’s personal collection are also included. The book was edited by Harry B. Evans, a 1973 Fellow and 1992 Resident.

As the editor’s preface points out, Richardson came to the Academy in 1947, as a member of the very first group of Fellows when the institution newly reopened after the Second World War. He and his colleagues encountered a city and country much changed by recent events, quite different from those remembered by earlier Fellows, and an Academy getting started all over again after the interruption of the war. The late 1940s and early 1950s were a period of profound change, for both Rome and Italy, and for the Academy itself. The city itself grew dramatically in size and population, and the economic miracle of postwar Italy began to take shape. At the Academy a new generation of artists, architects, and scholars, molded by the experience of the war, took up residence and began their work. The Academy excavations at Cosa, which fundamentally transformed our understanding of city planning and architecture in the period of the Roman Republic, got underway in 1948. Important new work was also being done at major archaeological sites like Pompeii in Campania.

Because Richardson was in the thick of it all, his reminiscences of his Academy years present a vivid portrait of the people and personalities that shaped the Academy at that time, many of whom returned to the United States to embark on brilliant careers of their own. Not only does he outline his own experiences and activities at the Academy, but we get a good sense of what life was like in the Academy community in the immediate postwar period, and we meet a cast of characters—Fellows, Residents, staff, and visitors—who effectively shaped the institution into what it has become today. His accounts of working at Cosa and Pompeii also give a vivid picture of the challenges faced by archaeologists at the time, as well as the significant achievements they made.

Readers who already know Richardson as a professor or through correspondence and conversation, at the Academy or elsewhere, will recognize immediately his keen insight into his fellow human beings, perceptive wit, and unique sense of humor. Those meeting him for the first time in these pages will get to know an extraordinary individual who has contributed so much to the success of the Academy over the past sixty years, as well as to Roman studies throughout a distinguished scholarly career. And they will learn fascinating details about the Academy at a critical period of its history.

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