The week-long conference was attended by about 175 attendees with site visits in Rome, Ostia and Cosa. Among the participants were about 15 scholars from Romania.....
I was very fortunate to maintain a great relationship with the American Academy in Rome. I was introduced to the Academy when I was in my early 20’s and found great opportunities over the course of two decades. As soon as I moved permanently to Italy in late 1997, I started to use the Library often and build a network. One of the many assets of the AAR is a large museum collection of artifacts that were acquired in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A project led by Ili Nagy, Larissa Bonfante and Jacque Collins sought to catalogue all the artifacts. I was invited by Ili to study the lamps and common wares in 1998, and, in the process, I assembled an exhibition of many oil lamps in the same year. In 2000, Mellon Professor Archer Martin asked me to be his assistant, a position I held through 2005.
The archaeology assistantship was an important experience. Archer is also a pottery specialist, so we spent much time working on AAR-related projects. Many of the projects were small consulting tasks which took a few days or weeks, but we became heavily involved in Michael Heinzelmann’s geophysical and archaeological project at Ostia Antica as well as the Sangro Valley Project, led by Susan Kane and Ed Bispham. Heinzelmann’s project involved a geophysical survey of all unexcavated areas of Ostia and test trenches in key areas, such as a Constantinian basilica and a river port. The SVP surveyed a river valley in the region of Abruzzo which drains into the Adriatic Sea. The team excavated a small number of sites deemed important, including a Roman public area on Monte Pallano and an Iron Age site at Acquachiara.
There were many tasks as part of the assistantship, but the largest responsibility was the development of a database for the Academy’s Museum Collection. The project went through various iterations, including ideas to burn CD’s or have an in-house database; with the advances in internet at that time, we decided to develop a database that could be installed on the website of AAR (http://www.aarome.org/research/resources/archaeological-study-collection). Most of the objects, several thousand, were stored in the basement of the Chiaraviglia building of the Academy which was not easily available to the public. By 2008 a seminar room had been outfitted with custom-made cabinets and drawers for the collection and I was called upon to install all the museum pieces and help inaugurate what became known as the Norton-Van Buren Seminar Room.
This was also a time when I began to organize colloquia and conferences. A successful conference organized with colleague Helene Dessales of the Ecole Francaise de Rome focused on methods and approaches in the study of economic patterns in Italy between the Bronze Age and the Medieval period. This was one of the first times outside of major conventions that scholars from different fields were brought together to exchange methodologies and results. In September 2002, the Academy hosted the 23rd international conference of the Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum, organized by Archer Martin and me. The week-long conference was attended by about 150 attendees with site visits in Rome, Ostia and Cosa. Among the participants were about 15 scholars from Romania, including Alexandru Matei of the Salaj County Musuem of History and Art.