Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past is an unprecedented and ambitious $100 million, decade-long global initiative to promote a greater understanding of the world's cultural heritage and its value to global society, including far-reaching education, research, and conservation efforts.
The initiative will explore the interwoven histories of the ancient worlds through a diverse program of groundbreaking scholarship, exhibitions, conservation, and pre- and post-graduate education, and draw on partnerships across a broad geographic spectrum including Asia, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East, and Europe.
Beginning in fall 2019, Getty will engage major global partners from schools and universities, cultural institutions, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector in this urgent work. The initiative will continue through 2030 and beyond.
Objectives of Ancient Worlds Now
Broad in scope, Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past will make a significant and lasting impact by:
- Raising broad awareness of the threats to ancient heritage from development, economic pressures, mass tourism, political forces, climate change, and violent conflict
- Creating effective conservation strategies that can be applied on a large scale to increase scientific expertise and global capacity to save what remains
- Engaging global audiences through compelling, advanced digital interactive education and exhibition programs, demonstrating the importance of cultural heritage
- Pursuing deep inquiry, including advanced digital research techniques, to strengthen our understanding of the interconnections and fluidity between and among ancient cultures.
Projects Now Underway
Below are some of the many Getty projects already underway or in development as part of Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past.
Getty Conservation Institute (GCI)
Conservation of Ancient Mosaics on Paphos, Cyprus
Working in partnership with the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus, the Getty Conservation Institute will develop a conservation master plan to guide the preservation of one of the richest sites of mosaic pavement in the Mediterranean, with significant remains from the Hellenistic, Roman, early Christian, and Byzantine periods, as well as Frankish and Ottoman monuments.
Training of Conservation Professionals in Abu Dhabi
The Conservation Institute will present the International Course on the Conservation of Earthen Architecture in the World Heritage City of Al Ain, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, organized in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism-Abu Dhabi. The course, held in February 2021, will provide practical training for mid-career professionals from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia.
Digital Art History
Several digital mapping grants are making records of important archaeological sites more widely accessible and allowing scholars to ask and answer new research questions:
Stanford University’s Çatalhöyük Living Archive will be a GIS web database of two decades of excavation data for this Neolithic and Chalocolithic settlement, making this important material available to archaeologists, art historians, and the general public.
University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Pompeii Artistic Landscape Project, a collaboration with the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University, will make it possible to locate artworks geographically and assess complex connections between them at this renowned Roman archaeological site.
Several research seminars in the Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative are bringing together younger scholars to enhance cross-border collaboration, break down nationalist narratives, and create new understandings of ancient cultures:
Emory University’s Beyond the Northern Aegean convenes participants from the Black Sea region, Western Europe, and North America to explore how ancient communities traversed political and cultural borders to use Greek architectural forms and ideas in ancient Thrace.
University of California, Berkeley’s The Many Lives of Ancient Monuments brings together younger art historians and archaeologists from the Greater Mediterranean region to study the history and interpretation of archaeological sites in Turkey.
A recently awarded grant to the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia is allowing scholars from across Southeastern Europe to analyze the history of archaeology in the region and to develop new interdisciplinary approaches that can reinvigorate our understanding of the ancient past.
A grant to the Smithsonian Institution is supporting a 12-week training program for Iraqi heritage specialists at the Iraqi Institute for the Conservation of Antiquities and Heritage in Erbil.
Exhibitions on the Ancient World
Several exhibitions are planned, or have already taken place, in connections with Ancient Worlds Now: A Future for the Past, many including lectures and scholarly conferences:
- Palmyra: Loss and Remembrance (2017–19)
- Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World (2018)
- Assyria: Palace Art of Ancient Iraq (2019–2022)
- Mesopotamia: Civilization Begins (2020)
- Persia and the Classical World (2021)
- Thrace and the Classical World (2023)
- The Levant and the Classical World: Phoenicians, Philistines and Canaanites (2025)
Conservation and Study of Ancient Artworks
Many conservation treatments of ancient sculptures have been recently undertaken, are underway, or are in the planning stages:
- Benevento Obelisk (2018)
- Drunken Satyr (2018)
- Herculaneum ivories (2019)
- 10 seismic mitigation bases for the National Archaeological Museum, Athens (underway)
The Museum’s Head of Antiquities Conservation, Susanne Gänsicke, and colleagues from the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago are currently in Tashkent to train Central Asian conservators in treating metals.
Getty Research Institute (GRI)
Acquisition of the duc de Luynes Collections
The Getty Research Institute has acquired a nearly complete archive documenting two expeditions to the Holy Land undertaken by the visionary art collector, archaeologist, and scientist Honoré d'Albert, duc de Luynes. The expeditions, held in 1864 and 1866, constituted the first systematic attempts to survey and photograph the Dead Sea basin in present-day Jordan. The materials complement the Vignes album and photographs of Palmyra from the same mission, also held by the Research Institute. Together, these archives present a holistic record of a region seared by ethnic conflicts.
Acquisition of the Lothar von Falkenhausen Library and Archive
The Getty Research Institute has acquired the most comprehensive library dedicated to Chinese archaeology still remaining in private hands. Falkenhausen, professor of Chinese Archaeology and Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and head of the East Asian Laboratory at UCLA's Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, has led multiple archaeological campaigns in China. Beginning in 1979, Falkenhausen made a serious effort to gather volumes related to Chinese archaeology. Today, the 25,000-volume library exceeds the collections of virtually all institutional libraries in the US and Europe.
Pre-Hispanic Art Provenance Initiative
The Pre-Hispanic Art Provenance Initiative seeks to document and analyze the commodification and mobilization of Pre-Hispanic art and material culture by the international art market between the mid-19th and late-20th centuries. The initiative will include a biennial series of international symposia and workshops that examine the history of collecting and dealing in Pre-Hispanic art and a series of scholarly publications.
Florentine Codex Initiative
Included in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, the Florentine Codex is considered the most important manuscript of early colonial Mexico, renowned for its bilingual, encyclopedic presentation of Pre-Hispanic culture and the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, and widely regarded by scholars as the most reliable source of information about Aztec culture. Through translation and an interactive digital platform, the Florentine Codex initiative will provide global access to the manuscript and disseminate knowledge about its cultural significance.
Getty Publications plans to publish Cultural Heritage and Mass Atrocities: Human and Security Costs, edited by James Cuno and Thomas G. Weiss, the first book to focus attention on the critically important linkage between attacks on cultural heritage and mass atrocities, from the perspective of humanitarian, security, political, legal, and cultural studies. Contributors will include Edward Luck, Professor, Professional Practice in International & Public Affairs, Columbia University; Luis Monreal, Director General, Aga Khan Trust for Culture; Sabine von Schorlemer, UNESCO Chair in International Relations and Chair, International Law, EU Law and International Relations, Technical University Dresden; and nearly two dozen other international writers on these topics.