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Aims & methods


SICILYWAR advances the following core questions: How did defence and safeguarding plans to protect antiquities and museums work effectively in Sicily? How far did safeguarding authorities (e.g. the Ministry of National Education and the local Superintendencies) obstruct the Royal Italian Army’s and Allies’ military construction plans and tried to preserve antiquities? Did the demand to protect antiquities clash with the need to rescue civilians against the Allied bombs? Did excavations and construction sites, arranged in an emergency situation, interfere with archaeological sites and museums?Benefitting from a variety of primary sources, the project will aim to pursue the following four objectives:

1: A legislative, political and military history of antiquities safeguarding in Sicily during the WW2. In particular, the project aims to understand how safeguarding evolved within the extraordinary context of the war.

2: A social history of all-level authorities and civilians involved in antiquities safeguarding. SICILYWAR will focus on the novel networks and social units interacting one each other in the war context. This is well-defined by a variety of connections within social levels (state, regional, local and supranational ones).

3: A history of archaeology, sites and museums in Sicily during the WW2. The project will outline a detailed history of Sicilian archaeology, assessing a variety of contexts and events. In particular, a first-rate, novel analysis of events of WW2 and archaeology will be outlined for the first time, including the impact of military activities on sites and museums.

4: A national and European contextualisation of Sicilian archaeology during the WW2. The study will also aim to contextualise Sicilian archaeology in the wider Italian and European stage. Comparing other case studies will be beneficial to understand how Sicily had similar links with other European countries regarding the protection of antiquities in war context.


The project will mobilise a variety of primary sources – mainly from European archives – combining different archaeological, historiographical and analytical approaches, and focusing on multidisciplinary perspectives. Therefore, SICILYWAR will be carried out at the intersection of archaeological, museum, historical, political, military and social studies. This is the strength of the project.

Available documentation in archives will be processed to perform a thorough inquiry and obtain the most faithful, detailed and authentic historical reconstruction. Records are collected in archives and properly copied and arranged in a documentary appendix.

A ‘multi-level’ approach is essentially utilised to assess all historical events and fully understanding why a specific body produced a record. In particular, this method seeks to explore and exploit documentation on a ‘4-level system’, based on military, national, regional and local scale. Levels includes the Italian state, the regional dimension, the local context and finally the supranational authorities, that is mainly the AMGOT. Our approach approach is strongly interdisciplinary, since it allows me to merge a variety of data from different perspectives and disciplines (e.g. war studies, archaeology, social/communities studies and culture heritage), demonstrating how WW2 impacted on antiquities and people on varied dimensions.

Documentary evidence is vast and includes a variety of sources properly assessed. We have, for instance, official dispatches and special laws produced by the Italian Ministry of National Education, Ministry of War and the AMGOT. They also include various pictures which tell us much about the war context and archaeology at risk. Documents are also very helpful to understand the interaction amongst local personnel like custodians and museum directors. Archives to be explored are various and still keep substantial records on WW2 and archaeology (see, for instance, the Central State Archive in Rome or the Archaeological Museum in Palermo).

The project will aim to produce a first-rate analysis of historical events which convey into a major book. The monograph, which is forthcoming with Archaeopress (and fully open-access) will include a substantial documentary appendix containing all archival records previously traced in archives. These documents are essential to fulfil the proposed research aims and understand the effects of war on Sicilian archaeology.

Impact and audience

SICILYWAR, a project at the intersection of interdisciplinary perspectives, will benefit a variety of subjects, as follows:

1) art historians and archaeologists, seeking fresh data on archaeological discoveries and museum studies in Sicily in the 1940s; such themes will be disclosed for the first time through archival records;

2) historians, interested in the WW2 in Italy and specifically in Sicily between 1940 and 1945, when also the Allied landed and occupied the island;

3) social studies experts, observing the impact of war on local communities and the interaction between authorities in that particular context.

4) the wider public, interested in WW2 studies and the history of Sicily.