In a will dated 29th September 1998, Federico Zeri bequeathed to the University of Bologna his house in Mentana, the estate of 10 hectares, 3 farmhouses, the collection of Roman epigraphs, the art library (some 85,000 works including art books, auction catalogues and periodicals) and the photograph library (some 290,000 photographs).
Behind that choice lay a two-way relationship of growing trust and esteem between Federico Zeri and Bologna University, despite the scholar’s well-known aversion for the academic world. Throughout the Eighties and Nineties he gave many unforgettable lectures at Bologna University, which in turn recognised his career and contribution by the highest Italian accolade, the Honorary Degree, conferred in February 1998.
To honour a bequest of such magnitude, in 1999 the University of Bologna established the "Federico Zeri Foundation" on the basis of the statute presented by then Rector Fabio Roversi Monaco, approved by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage on 12 th September 2000.
Library and reading room at Federico Zeri Foundation in Bologna
An art history Foundation
Since 2001 the joint energies of the Rector and Foundation President, Pier Ugo Calzolari, and the Director Anna Ottani Cavina have shaped the Foundation project into a centre for advanced research into humanistic studies, specialising in the History of Art, and at the same time a centre for the promotion of culture contained in a dynamic modern university context and backed by a highly-qualified international scientific committee.
Links have been forged to this end with institutions such as The Getty Research Institute of Los Angeles, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at the Villa I Tatti outside Florence, the London Courtauld Institute, the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) in Paris.
The Foundation’s first task however is to ensure that the collections it has been left are made accessible to the public. Work has been in progress since 2002 on cataloguing the Zeri photograph archive, digitizing it and putting it on-line.
Since September 2007 this taxing programme has also involved inventorying, cataloguing and updating the Library which will be open to academic visitors by the end of 2008.
The Foundation intends to promote research via seminars, workshops and study grants so as to harness the potential of the photograph and book libraries to interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars.
The Bologna centre of the Zeri Foundation forms part of the restored convent of Santa Cristina, a Renaissance complex in the heart of the city centre which the University has equipped to house the photograph library, the art library and a study centre with a large reading room and computer stations for on-line consultation.
The library has been installed thanks to a contribution from the Monte di Bologna e Ravenna Foundation.